Parents today have heard the term 'choices' thrown around quite a bit over the last few years. We've heard 'good choice' and 'bad choice' and teach this to our children. When we see them starting to make a bad choice, we ask them to make a better choice. When we give them a task to do, we tell them that we know they'll make a good choice in completing it. Here's the question, though.
When do we let our children make their own choices without reminding them what's good and bad?
Here's my theory. We know what it feels like to make a bad choice (shame, disappointment, and anger are some emotions that come to mind) and we don't want that for our kids. That's honorable, but what do our children learn in this? Research shows that children internalize their parents doing everything for them as 'they don't think I can do it'. That makes sense, doesn't it? Imagine going into work tomorrow and your boss suddenly came, sat in your cube and started taking over your work just as you were about to do it. Imagine your boss saying something like 'it's ok, it's easier this way' or 'let me help you out with that'. You'd start to wonder if you were doing it wrong all along, wouldn't you? The boss may have the best intentions in doing this, but that doesn't change how we feel about it. The same goes for our children. If we never let them do it -- even if they do it wrong -- they will never think they can do it.
Some parents out there are thinking that they just want to help their children, that their parents never helped them and they want to show more support to their children than their parents showed to them. What if I told you that it actually offers more support to your children to let them make a wrong choice and face the consequences than it does to step in and make the choice for them? Yes, making a wrong choice will result in negative consequences and no one likes those, but we learn more from those, don't we?
I'm certainly not purposing that you let your child get in harm's way by allowing them to make a choice, but consider the rules at your house and start there. Are there rules for chores? For example, let's say that if your child doesn't do his/her chores, they lose allowance or TV time. How often do you ask him/her to do their chores with the reminder that if they don't, they lose money or TV time. What if, instead of telling them over and over that they'll lose a particular item, you let it go. What if you gave them a deadline and if it wasn't done, they'd lose TV time, but if they did get it done, they would get their TV time. Then, here's the hard part, you let it go. Don't nag them. Let them succeed or fail and face the consequences either way. What lesson is taught in that?
I know this is hard and, for some parents, it's really radical, but it works. Not only does it help ensure your children will make better decisions on their own, but it increases their self-esteem as they go because we don't fail every time out, do we? We succeed quite a bit of the time and, in stepping in all the time, we're not giving our children the chance to succeed, either.
I also know that this is just one example of many, comment on situations that come to mind as you read this and I will respond as quickly as I can. Comment and tell me how things work in your house.
Karen Becker is an author, speaker and family coach. She has a Master's Degree in Counseling and applies these skills when coaching clients. She has years of experience coaching clients in all areas of life: parenting, co-parenting after divorce and in personal growth/wellness. She can be reached at email@example.com.