Updated: Nov 13, 2019
I make mistakes daily, so why do I try so hard to make sure my kids don't? Probably because I want to protect them and take care of them - which are great skills to have as a mother if you think about it. That's a great thing as a mom to feel validated for taking care and providing for your child, but is it in their best interest?
Chapter 4 of "How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen & Listen So Your Kids Will Talk", gets right to the point with the hard truth that dependency can lead to hostility. Ouch. The steps to encourage Autonomy are below:
1. Let Children Make Choices
2. Show respect for a child's struggle.
3. Don't ask too many questions.
4. Don't rush to answer questions.
5. Encourage children to use choices outside of the home.
6. Don't take away hope.
Fun fact about me, I ask WAAAAAY to many questions. To the point that I am already asking another question before my child has the chance to answer. I never knew I was like that until the lessons in the book provided me the harsh reality that I can be a nag. It's odd because I am not like that with all of my kids. Each relationship is different depending on the child, as it is with most parent/child relationships. As so eloquently stated in the book,
It's a bittersweet road we parents travel. We start with total commitment to a small, helpless human being. Over the years we worry, plan, comfort and try to understand. We give our love, our labor, our knowledge, and our experience -- so that one day he or she will have the inner strength and confidence to leave us.
Are we setting our kids up for the day or for life?
That has been plaguing me all week. It resonates most with the relationship I have with my daughter. My little girl is growing up. She already has challenges, (like all kids do) but add in Epilepsy, damage done by seizure activity and ADHD, and well, somedays I just want to keep her in my arms and not let the harshness of the world get anywhere close. But, by doing that - she will resent me. And, I don't want to look back and feel like I didn't prepare her adulthood.
The assignments of Chapter 4 encouraged us to put into action at least 2 skills that would encourage your child's sense of self, as a separate, competent, self-reliant person.
I had the chance to really encourage autonomy this week when it came to the school lunch line. Sounds silly, but for my girl- this has been a goal of hers. She wanted to get through that lunch line and enter her pin #, ALL ON HER OWN. The only problem, she can't remember it. Her loving and caring teacher wrote it down on an index card for her and walked her through the line last week. But this past Friday she was on her own.
In our school district, we are allowed to eat with our children two days a week. So, when Friday rolled around, I thought we, no-SHE (See, I'm doing unintentionally!) would try the lunch line again. As her class came piling into the lunch line, I saw her sweet, anxious little face, confused about where to go. We made eye contact and she said: "What do I do?!"
I really should have encouraged her- but instead, I resorted to old habits, grabbed her hand and went through the line with her. Did I hover? Yes. Did I ask her too many questions? Yes.
It came time for the Pin #, she had her card and what did I do? Enter it for her? NO.
I realized what I had been doing and stepped back and let her finish her transaction. SHE DID IT! She didn't need me. I was so proud. The best part, she was too. Baby steps, y'all.
Did I make it to the 2nd skill? No, I didn't. But, I find myself throughout the challenges of the day trying to be mindful of my actions and responses. That's forward motion and I want to lead by example.
It is a hard thing as parents to just shut up and listen. To let your children make the choices that they see fit, to deal with the consequences of their actions and to love the hell out of them regardless.
If you would like to connect and continue the conversation, I encourage you to join #TheMJBookClub on Wednesdays via @TheMommyJane on Instagram Live. The wisdom and camaraderie that her @TheMommyMJ are providing are beneficial to mothers and women everywhere! Hope to see you in the chat section - 6 pm PST/9 pm EST /8 pm CST
IMAGE COURTESY OF Joanna Kosinska, UNSPLASH