Will my child ever learn to behave when his peers are around?
Why my son never cleans his room without being told to do so?
How my teen will survive his high-school studies without me running after him?
And above all, ‘will my kid ever grow up to handle his affairs on his own?’
These are some of the questions we ask ourselves every day, week or month. The intensity of these concerns can be mild, representing friction of everyday life, or it can be severe, showing extreme laziness and dependence on others, especially parents.
As parents, we are rightly concerned about the sense of responsibility our adult kids will feel in future and the control they will exert on themselves.
Do you think making them participate in chores or running after them to make them study will develop their sense of ownership over their lives?
We want this award for our child? We prefer that attitude in them. We wish these activities and choose those friends for them.
Why do we want so many things for them?
Because we love them and have their best interests at heart. They will be grateful for all the choices we make for them because we are doing a great job in focusing them on things which matter most.
I believe not.
Instead of directing them to their success we are deterring them from most important ingredient of success: their self-control.
Just imagine, once you have chosen their career path for them along with some faces that will play as friends in their life, would you work on their behalf to excel in their career or socialize in their place to make relations work?
Even if they succeed in working out their studies, what would you do to make their career more interesting for them?
We all know that at the end of the day, it’s our kids who choose the way they will live their life. Once the parent-child bond matures it releases both parties to live their lives irrespective of wishes and demand of other party.
One day, they will become independent of us, mentally, emotionally, financially.
Why not make this independence real by helping them rein their destiny from an earlier age? Why not teach them some moral life skills which help them once they move out instead of teaching them to rely on you for every life choice?
Maybe, you would think you have plenty of time? Maybe, you think they are unable to exert full wisdom to decide for their good?
But time is not plenty. It’s running out. With every passing day the ability of your child’s brain to expand and make space for new skills is decreasing. And ability to use brain comes with practice. They will not, one day, start using their brains without prior training and exposure nor will they become independent without gradually increasing their span of control.
If we envision our kids dealing with life assertively and without stress, start educating them to build and assert their persona from an early age. To do this, you first need to acknowledge their personality and start respecting it.
Respect their wishes:
Your child is a unique human being with needs and wishes. You show concern about their needs by feeding, clothing, sheltering and educating them.
But what about wishes? Do you respect their wishes also? Do you allow them to decide the time they want to be in the bed? Do they decide the clothes they wear? What about extra-curricular activities? Do they have a say in them also?
Educate them about respect by respecting them. Make space for them and assure them that you are not violating their space in any case.
Start small. Start by assuring them the control they have on their bodies by allowing them to decide the portion size of meal they are taking and the clothes they are wearing from an early age. Educate them what is normal and healthy but do not prevent them from making mistakes if they want to experience. They will learn by mistake and will trust you more after testing your hypotheses.
Gradually increase the span of their control. But the first step to enable them to assert their control is accepting the fact that there will be mistakes.
Respect their boundaries
Once you have entrusted them with control over their lives, respect their decisions. If they want to skip their greens let them. Offer different variants like fruits and soups to fill the gap in their diet. Don’t force yell guilt or threaten them to change their decisions.
And most importantly, don’t lie to coerce your decision. Don’t say that the food will get tastier with every bite. Or that they will get horribly sick by not taking these foods. Emotional blackmailing and lying will diminish their ability to understand and comply with straightforward, objective talk. (And don’t forget about the healthy eating habit they will lose because of excessive control.)
Keep in mind that once they are grown ups, the only authority you will have on them will be your reasoning skill. Hone this skill to prepare yourself and your kids for a better, mature, and more fruitful future bond.
Ask their opinion:
Ask them to choose next holiday destination.
Or how about setting a menu of their choice once a week?
They may also like the idea of choosing your mother’s present on your behalf.
Try it once, but, with a word of caution.
You may not like their choice, right?
What should you do if you disapprove it?
Proceed as if they have said nothing? But it will breed resentment in them and they may feel unheard.
Or accept their opinion even if you don’t like it? But you wouldn’t be happy and now the feeling of resentment is boiling within only to spill out of you as a mock of their choice.
There are two scenarios: one where the choice relates to them and the other is when only you will be the affected party. In case they are sharing the consequences of their choice, reason and educate them about the flaws in the opinion but let them decide.
But if the choice doesn’t affect them, decide for yourself and tell them why you didn’t go for their choice. Reject their opinion, if its not suitable, humbly. After all, facing and accepting rejection is part of self-control in kids and adults.
Let Them Get their Hands Dirty
I never laundered my clothes until after I graduated. Why? I completed my education while staying at home and, according to my mum, was too occupied with my studies to spend my time in any other activity. Plus, I didn’t know how to do it.
Did it help?
Certainly not. I fact, I felt like a loser. Every other person knew the trick except me. I must either had less intelligent than average person or I was entitled to get my work done by others.
I didn’t think I should and could take control over an important activity of my life, and my decision to use others’ service made me dependent on them. Two to three learned inabilities easily can sum up to make the dependent person handicapped who couldn’t assert personality without getting validation and support from others. So, free your kids from this dependence. Encourage them to know how every work, that relates to sustain their life quality, is to be done.
Allow Yourself to Be Human:
You worry that they will not be able to take care of their responsibilities all alone? They will make mistakes. They will lack motivation. Or they need a constant push.
But is this reason valid?
Don’t you too make mistakes? You also sometimes fall back because of lack of motivation. You also need a push at times. And you know that it is okay to sometimes lose sight of your destination.
If being human is normal for you, then why it is punishable by lost control for your kids. Sure, they will mess up at times. But they will know how to get back on feet and be resilient. In fact, there is no better teacher than a mistake that is demanding ratification. Allow your kids to make mistakes by letting yourself to be stupid at times. Accept your short comings and show your kids how to manage them instead of negating their presence.
What Do You Think?
Children are little human beings and they need as much freedom and sense of self as grown-ups. Sometimes, they need more of it because they have to store these feelings for their bright future. How are you helping them grow their store of future will-power?
Are you satisfied with the level of autonomy they exert right now? If yes, then congrats. If not, then what are you doing to change the situation in your child’s favor.