When our children are born, we have total control over every part of their lives
Wash your face, comb your hair, pick up your room, put your dirty clothes in the hamper, clear your plate, wipe the table, sweep up your mess, take off your shoes, cut your hair—your clothes are too tight, too loose, too dirty, too strange…
When our children are born, we have total control over every part of their lives. We choose their clothes, their hairstyle, their food, even their friends. But as they get older, their personalities start to come out. They like things we don’t like, and don’t like things we like. They look like us, but they have their own personalities, beliefs, and opinions.
We don't always agree with their choices
If we are doing our jobs, we are helping shape the beliefs and opinions of our children so they are becoming responsible adults. But we won’t always agree with their choices. So, how do we know when to insist they follow our standards, and when we can let them do their own thing? This is a tough decision for most parents. But it can be intimidating when their father is in prison and you are trying to set a new foundation for their future. What if you mess up by letting them take too many risks? Or what if you stifle their growth by making all of their decisions for them? This is a big decision.
Choose your battles
That is the best advice I was given, and the best advice I can give to you. Not everything needs to be done your way. By choosing your battles, you will be giving your children the freedom to become independent and learn from their own mistakes. You will also still provide protection and guidance as they grow and accept more responsibility.
If your child wants to wear snow boots in August, let them. When their hairstyle drives you crazy, remember styles change. However, if they break curfew, deliberately disobey, or act disrespectfully – the battle is on. Children need to know boundaries. They will test those boundaries so they know exactly how far they can go before you show up. Our job is not to control our children, but to instruct them on self-control.
Emotional intelligence has been a popular term floating around the internet. In classrooms, and at the water cooler. According to The Gottman Institute (The Institute), “A particularly powerful study tested school-aged children on self-control and conducted follow-up studies on those children in their 30s.
So, what is the balance in boundaries?
We must find the balance between keeping rules and respect intact in our home, and letting our children exert their own personalities. One of the biggest battles most parents ask about when their children are small is food and eating. I learned from a nutritionist friend that our job is not to make sure our kids EAT well. Shocking, right? Rather, it is your job to make sure they have healthy food available and prepared for them. Let them choose whether they will eat or not.
Now, as children get older, it gets more complicated. Their job is to challenge the boundaries more as they get closer to adulthood. Our job is to slowly hand over more control of their lives to them so they can thrive as adults. If we hand over all the control too soon, chaos. If we hold it too long, discord. Knowing how much to let go, and when is the biggest question I get from parent of teens. My rule has always been do the right thing, earn more responsibility. It is like getting promoted at work. The harder we work, the more likely we are to get promoted. And what comes with promotion? More responsibility. 😊
Natural consequences are the best teachers
You have to remember that they must learn consequences for their actions. Natural consequences are the best teachers. So, if they are taking risks (that are not illegal, immoral or life threatening)—let them fail or succeed on their own. Just be there to help them with support or encouragement when they need you. But don’t make everything into a battle. It really will not matter in 10 years if their clothes match today. But it will matter if they lie, cheat or steal. Pick the stuff that WILL matter and focus on that. Let the other stuff go and watch your children thrive.
Thriving means living and learning.
Learning comes from experience, not from lecturing. Most of the disagreements parents have with their children can be avoided when the parents take a long view instead of focusing on the now. Rules and boundaries are really important to keep our children safe and healthy. But if you are completely honest, not all of your rules are about keeping them safe. Some of them are about you keeping up appearances. Let those things go.
Choose your battles, focus on raising healthy responsible children, and enjoy them while you can. They will be grown up and gone before you know it—if you do your job right!
I am rooting for you!