Parenting Decisions (Episode 204)
When I was younger, I knew all my years of babysitting, teaching, camp counselor-ing and loving on kids had fully prepared me to be a parent. Parenting decisions would come easy with all the variety of children and parenting styles I had seen.
Oh the irony. Before my first child was even born, I was hit with parenting decisions I never had experienced before. It was up to us to determine health choices, food choices, correction/guidance choices, and education choices.
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The Weight of Parenting Decisions
This is clearly not something we ever want to take lightly.
We have tiny humans entrusted into our care to create into the future world changers that will become the elders of succeeding generations.
That's a wee bit intimidating. And it can get pretty scary trying to determine the "right" way to parent where you won't mess up. Maybe I can just cut out the middle-man of worry and cut to the chase. You WILL mess up. And hindsight will be 20/20. You'll gain new insights as you - and your child - grows.
We can labor over the tiniest of decisions with our children, or feel trapped into an "either I'm going to raise them perfect or they'll be scarred forever" scenario. Well, we don't believe in either. We don't believe in either/or, either!
Our Listener Question
The corresponding podcast and this post were inspired by a listener question - I always love getting these, as so often, just like this one, the question has been asked by more than one of you - this is a struggle other parents have experienced as well!
Lauren, you did a great job of unpacking some questions with specific examples to put it into context. I clipped some of her stories and key questions here:
How do you teach your children to cope with difficult and challenging social situations?
This idea was brought on by picking up my 5.5 year old from camp today where it was 90 degrees. As soon as I picked him up, he melted into my arms crying. Overwhelmed with heat. Also, moments earlier, two kids had been chasing him, and when he asked them to stop, they wouldn't stop and he fell into the "play boat" sandbox and hurt his arm. He needed help (because 5 years olds don't know how to self-regulate): and he needed a grown up. He needed me. None were there for him for this incident. Does it make him stronger to experience it, or is the co-regulation aspect more important at his age, and helping him to get through these experiences? This is where I struggle with trying to decide to send him to school, or homeschool/unschool.
How do you tow the fine line between giving your children control/meeting their needs AND guiding them to make BEST/healthiest decisions for themselves?
This is one I struggle with A LOT, now recovering from permissive parenting. My son struggles with making unhealthy decisions, and I still struggle with giving him the space to navigate his choices and decisions, versus really talking to him about it, and controlling the situation in a way that guides him completely away from what he authentically WANTS.
This last one also makes me reflect about a parents decision versus a child's need or want with regard to school... where is the line between what's best for him, and what he's asking/needing?
How do parents digress into this area of pushing their children to become more resilient and adaptable?
How do we navigate as empowered, inventional parents the decisions that are "BEST" for our children while listening to them and what they need, while pushing them to do what might be harder?
Have You Gone To An Extreme?
In our efforts to be the "best" parents for our kids, sometimes we gravitate to the extremes. We aim to be the exact opposite of our parents, or we swing to authoritarian or permissive parenting.
The extremes can be detrimental. We raise a child by force and lose sight of their own will in the process (which often leads to rebellion when they can't take the control anymore). Or, in our desire to give them the world, we allow them to trample on that world as they fail to recognize their impact on the world that does not revolve around them.
Navigating all the emotions can be time-consuming. Yet helping our children learn how to navigate them in a positive way is critical to their coping skills for life. We create a "bathtub of boundaries with an ocean of love" that can grow as the child learns to navigate things for themselves. Sometimes our children can get really comfortable and "stuck" in a certain zone - yet just like we see in nature, sometimes for their own survival, parents need to give that extra nudge.
So we nudge. We expose them to new ideas and concepts, we challenge them, and we check them when there is a learning opportunity for a different approach. And a huge reason we can do this is in recognizing it doesn't have to be permanent! We can try something new, make a decision, go down a path...and still switch things up. I got a great "note from the universe" today that is actually pretty applicable here:
Considering your grandest and most glorious dreams, Ashley:
When your thoughts and visualizations pertain to the "hows" (how they will come true), or when they include an insistence upon unimportant details (virtually all details are unimportant; think of them, yes, but just don't attach to them), or when they require specific people to behave in specific ways… best case scenario, your dream might come true.
Whereas, when your dreams are of BIG-picture items, like rocking abundance, amazing health, vivacious happiness, and the like, the floodgates of success begin to powerfully tremble and your manifestation becomes inevitable.
Hark… a tremor I do detect…
Thoughts become things... choose the good ones! ® © www.tut.com ®
Pay attention to those thoughts you dwell on, and even what your dreams are for the future. Are they locked into only one path to success? Or do they allow for the seasons of life that are just as inevitable (and often unpredictable) as the weather?
Equip, Don't Enable
We have discussed building emotional resilience time and time again, and we stress the importance of it because of how powerful it is in fostering independence in our children. I talk in the podcast about how part of this is through clear communication and equipping our children with the tools to navigate their emotions and the ups and downs of life.
Building up that emotional resilience doesn't mean denying emotions; it's recognizing the lesson and insight in each emotion as it comes, and choosing how you will respond with that.
Yes, it is so, so critical that you build this in your children. And even more so that you build it in yourself.
What To Release And What To Retain
In our desire to help our children navigate into adulthood, there are two big elements we really dig into on the podcast episode above.
Release Your Fear
The first is fear. Fear can be a positive force, as it can be what holds us back enough to gather more information for an educated decision. Yet fear can also be crippling. The second I found out I was pregnant I was faced with a fear for the rest of my life - I could lose my child. Both literally and figuratively, my child may leave me in my lifetime. That's absolutely terrifying to me, and a harsh reality that I have unfortunately seen with loved ones around me. The pain of losing a child is nothing I would wish on anyone, and it hurts no matter what age they are.
This honestly isn't something I can just lie and say isn't a real fear of mine. I simply had to decide how much of my time and energy I was going to devote to that fear. I didn't eliminate it; I simply released it's grip on me.
Yes, there are times I'm hit with a pang of such intense love and desperate desire to hold my children tightly to me and never let them go. Yet in holding them tightly I prevent them from fully spreading their wings.
And the best way I can help my children navigate their own fears in life is to have them actively watch and engage with me as I release my own.
Retain Your Trust
First, trust yourself. Trust that you are doing the best you can with what you know at the time, and give grace to continue learning throughout your lifetime. Be willing to course-correct with new insights learned. If you want to raise confident children, start by exhibiting your own self-confidence. Trust that you are doing your best when you are, and know that growth will always help you adjust for progress.
In addition to trusting yourself, trust your children. You have to trust them to be able to process through an emotion - even those so-called negative ones - and come out on the other side.
My daughter Juliet and I are both High D personality styles. Our default emotion we can sit in is anger. We can get mad very quickly. Yet we can also get over it just as fast! It can be a fleeting moment that simply propels us to take our next step.
Remember how powerful the energy is of having people on your side. When you have a collective belief that someone truly can accomplish something, it's amazing how much easier it is to step up to the plate.
It may be that you have trust that yes, your child will one day actually be able to go to the bathroom on their own. And that trust and confidence in the fact that your 3 year old is not going to end up being a 15 year old in diapers can allow you a little more freedom to take a deep breath and release the fear now, give a little space, and let your toddler and their bowels figure out this rhythm a bit more on their own with natural consequences.
If you are struggling with fear and trust, these are two Ted talks I reference all the time. Navigating rejection and the jerks are a reality of life.
- What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection with Jia Jiang
- How to Not Take Things Personally with Frederik Imbo
It's not about eliminating these things in our lives; it's equipping them to navigate it. The drama happens not at the point of trauma, but when there is nothing in your toolkit to help you navigate it. If we haven't prepared our children for life and the swings keep coming out of left field, you bet they are going to swing back in a reactive way.
Live Life Together
Are you going to just set your life aside to manage your child's, or can you actually live life together? Yes, we have to move forward as we're helping them do the same. The more we openly live life together - the more I take the time to explain vs. steamroll, seek to understand vs. attack, and educate on the why vs. demand - the more my child sees me living life in this way (and thus models it themselves), and, the less volatile our decision-making is since everyone is in the know.
We don't fear disappointing our kids. They get it all the time. So do we! The weather doesn't cooperate. A mood is so off it completely skews the fun of the event. We have a change in plans for whatever reason. We simply look for a new opportunity to find joy.
Just this morning, Nathan and the girls were excited about getting a rare treat of donuts from our local donut shop. Unfortunately, they arrived to find out it was closed. Second thought - let's go to Aldi and grab a treat there. Also closed! Third - let's just go home and re-evaluate.
They talked through it all. It was a big disappointment. First lesson learned - look up open times - the earliest bird didn't get the worm in this scenario! They discussed just going over to Dunkin' Donuts - they were excited about donuts, so they could just force it with those, although no one really likes Dunkin' Donuts (why in the world would we waste this treat there then?) They decided they would rather delay gratification and come back when they were open another day.
Ultimately, they came home empty-handed, and instead of being in tears, they were ready to re-evaluate. We ended up going out for a breakfast at another restaurant, they got chocolate chip pancakes, and we all were happy.
Our plans for the morning were flip-flopped every few minutes and yet we all still survived. Why? NOT because we all handle change beautifully. It's because we navigated all the decisions and ups and downs together. They understand that life doesn't always work in your favor, so you can work with it or "throw your temper at it"...which does NOT help, as Juliet has learned (with my help) over the years!
"There are two lasting gifts we can give to our children - one is roots, the other, wings."
This has been up in my house since the year I was born. Are you giving your children both roots - a foundation of how to be a loving human and wings - the opportunity to struggle, experiment, and learn through natural consequences? Are you not only allowing them the joy and creativity of childhood, but equipping and empowering them for the ripple effect they have on the world?
Setting boundaries with your children, being honest with them when you struggle, and being firm on who you are and how you are to be treated are not signs of weakness or selfishness. These are signs of a responsible parent. Your first responsibility is to step into your own greatness as a model for your child to step into their own. The more you bring into their awareness how to be an awesome human - even amidst failure, disappointment, loss and inequality - the more you'll pave the way for a child that may not know everything, but they are equipped with the tools to navigate whatever comes their way.
It's not the knowledge of it all that allows us to flow through life - it's the critical thinking and resilience that allows us to bounce back and innovate as we move forward and grow, so we truly can see how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste.
Dig Deeper with These Posts and Episodes:
- Get the Free Family Vision Email Series Here
- How To Adjust To Life As A New Parent
- Words of Wisdom For New Parents
- The Only Advice New Parents Need To Know (Episode 59)
- Parent Styles – Are they helpful or harmful? (Episode 102)
- Those Crazy Crunchy Families
- Birth Choices For A Crunchy Mama and a Scheduled Cesarean
- Educational Resources For Parents looking at Alternative Education
- Natural Consequences, Discipline…or Punishment
- It's Not Always Either-Or...Remember the AND
- Bathtub Boundaries With An Ocean of Love (Episode 15)
- The Steps For Emotional Resilience (Episode 150)
- To Build Resilience, Let Them Bounce (Episode 36)
- 10 Essential Lessons for Life – Foster Independence
- On Boundaries: Your Children Are Not The Center Of The Universe!
- Have Life Seasons Got You Stuck In A Funk? (Episode 179)
- How do I equip my kid to “adult”? (Episode 89)
- Why I Believe In Functional Education For Our Future…and what that even is
- The Unschooling Parent (Episode 194)
- Every Action Has A Consequence (Episode 30)