How do we walk the line between letting our kids make their own decisions and making them for them?
For ages my eldest daughter has been on at me to pick her up early from school. The other day, her sister had a bit of a cough, so I thought I’d go and pick them up early; give them both a bit of a rest. When I arrived at kindergarten, my youngest daughter was thrilled. When we went to collect my eldest, however, she looked miserable.
She was in the kitchen helping the class assistant wash the lunch dishes, her friends were out in the garden playing. I explained that we were going home and she looked upset. “But I want to play with my friends” she cried. Okay, I thought, I didn’t see that coming; she’s obviously reached another developmental milestone where social engagement is becoming more important.
“I can come back later?” I offered. But that made her more miserable. She wasn’t thrilled at the thought of her younger sister at home with mum without her there. Her solution was for me to stay, not really an option when her sister needed rest.
Instead, I gave her a minute to think about whether to stay and play or to come with me. She decided to come, but cried all the way home for her friends. Afterwards it was suggested to me that perhaps I should just have made the decision for her. So the question arose in my mind, where should we draw the line between giving our children choices and making decisions for them?
Here’s the dilemma, I know those early years are the making of our subconscious mind. Most of us have become limited in our adulthood as a result of our subconscious, the foundations of which lie in the (often) well meaning advice, rules and discipline from the adults in our own family and community as we were growing up.
Think about your own life. Do you have beliefs about your own self worth, your ability to achieve things, which are holding you back from your dreams? Sadly that is called ‘normal’. It begins at birth; those early years are filled with experiences that communicate, at a sensory level, a lack of worth. Well meaning decisions made on our behalf, intended to keep our children, us and property safe from harm.
Then begins the social training of what is and is not proper conduct. As children in their early school years start to develop more into their emotional selves, the messages about worth continue to accumulate in their subconscious, wrapping around their inner knowing, obscuring it. Then as they move into early adulthood, developing their thinking, more and more thoughts - attracted like magnets in the subconscious – become entrenched beliefs.
Sadly, many of us in adulthood continue to buy into these thoughts about ourselves. We each think 60 – 70,000 thoughts a day, and apparently over 90% of those are just a repeat of yesterdays. The same thoughts lead to the same choices, the same behaviours, the same experiences and, therefore, the same emotions; which then perpetuates the same thoughts…
Yet, anyone who has been around children knows we are born into this world with talents, traits, purpose even, and inner knowing that helps you to determine whether you are on or off track in terms of your life’s intentions, your intuition. Most importantly, we are born with a very healthy sense of self worth.
As I reflected on that scenario when picking up my daughter, I realised there was no good all-round solution. Yes she was upset that neither of her options were perfect from her vantage point, but at least the disappointment that arose was born of her own choosing. Helping our kids deal with disappointment in a healthy ‘bounce back’ way is one of the most important things we can teach them.
Allowing my child to be who she is, minimizing the ‘layers’ that obscure her self worth, is important. I know that true success in life comes from people like you and I being, well, the real us. Each week I post articles about how corporations can thrive and how individuals can have the life we deserve – which all stems from rediscovering the authentic person beneath those subconscious fears, worries and doubts.
What if we can start to minimize these layers for our own children?
Earlier in my daughter’s experiences at a local daycare centre, the children were served food and not allowed to bring their own. The lady who cooked was bound and determined to cook a variety of healthy meals for the children, driven by the lack of healthy choices she was given in her earlier years. Good intentions.
Unfortunately though, my daughter was not interested in these healthy meals, she would much rather have eaten sandwiches. Until she was 18 months old, she gladly ate vegetables, but one day she just rejected them outright and – despite many attempts to reintroduce them – hasn’t yet returned to them. Her nature is such that forcing her to do something, creates an equal and opposite force of will in her to not comply.
So where do we walk the line between allowing a child to self determine, and to make decisions for them? I can guarantee that there’s no one answer but it’s important to consider who the decision impacts. If it’s a decision that impacts a collective, until our kids are in their early twenties, they won’t fully have developed that capability.
However, I can pretty much guarantee that most of us are on the side of the scale that intervenes way too much and makes too many decisions on behalf of our children. Each time this erodes our child’s self worth and adds layers. Ask yourself whether you are denying your child’s right to make their own decision out of convenience, or perhaps out of your own fears or lack of worth, or are you truly taking the broader perspective? I know I’ve all too often been guilty of the former.
Unknowingly, the lady at my daughter’s old daycare spoke to everyone’s deepest fears “if we allowed each child to pick and choose, there would be chaos”.
Would there? Or is that simply a fear we bear after having our own confidence and worth eroded? We are waking up to the fact that our limitations, our frustrations, arise largely from the subconscious negative and repetitive thought patterns in our mind. We are waking up to the fact that begins from birth and through those early childhood years.
That means the tide is changing – with us. What an awesome responsibility. As in any changing of the tide, we are likely to go too far at times, especially since we often act from a point where we are not in harmony with ourselves.
But in waking up to your own inner potential, inner harmony and inner knowing, you will start to look at your children through fresh eyes. With this new perspective you will more easily be able to walk that line, knowing when to allow your children freedom of choice or to make a decision for the collective, a perspective that only comes in adulthood when our job as parents is done.
So when you can, allow children to make their own choices. They will be healthier for it, and grow into the kind of people our world needs more of.
If you enjoyed this article you may enjoy reading Conscious Parenting and the article on food choices and diet. If we’re not already connected, just fill in your name and email at the top of the blog page to subscribe to my newsletter. I’d love for you to comment on, or share these thoughts with others, or contact me directly - email@example.com - I'm always happy to help.
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