As parents, sometimes we feel the need to control things that our children are doing, who they are playing with, what they are eating, and so on. There is a lot to be said for being mindful and aware of the controls that you try to exert over children and the reasons behind them.
When my kids were younger, I remember thinking that I could control almost everything. I do not think this was a conscious choice in my parenting, it was just part of my own conditioning. As I parented, I was careful to limit sweets, control food, homework time, friendships, and anything else that I thought would make my children grow up into beautiful young adults, inside and out. Thinking back on these choices makes me question a lot of the things I did.
First, we can never control another human being. We can guide, help, and suggest to them, but the more we try to control, the less control we really have. For example, when it came to sweets in the house, I really did not want my kids to have much. I think this is a very common theme in most homes. However, the more I tried to limit and control my kids’ intake of sweets, I learned later that they were sneaking or hiding candy so that I wouldn’t find out. And, I think I made my kids want sweets more because they could rarely have them. We might think we are in control but are we really?
The second part of this is that I liked sweets. I had my own stash to go to when I wanted it. Is it wrong to have the freedom to choose myself and hide what I was doing, and yet try to control their consumption? Could I have educated them about the nature of sugar (and many other things in life) and then given them the opportunity to make their own choices? How would that have made things different?
Through the trials and tribulations of parenting, what I have learned is that the more we can educate and share information with our children in a non-lecture type of format, while allowing them to make their own choices, the more we are actually empowering them. The other piece of this is to live the life we want to model for our children. We need to give them options and choices by example.
We, as parents, need to be the role models for our kids. We need to embody what we believe to be important. This creates the behaviors and desires in ourselves that we want to see in them. Embodying what we want our children to do sets the example for them. We are no longer in a society where children are doing exactly “what we say and not what we do.” They are doing what we do, not necessarily what we say. There has been a real shift in this since I was a child. What do you see as your patterns in your home? How can you relinquish control and educate and give your children the autonomy to make their own choices?