Teach children ever-increasing possibilities,
A few days ago my four-year-old son asked me if he could do a craft project-I was in the middle of tidying the house and with visions of glue, construction paper and mess going through my head, I said No, honey…not right now. He very quickly responded with: Awww…you always say no! Everyday you say no! And with that, he stormed off.
Okay, so I don’t really say no to everything! But my son’s reaction did remind me that it must be really disheartening for kids to hear the constant barrage of no’s and directives from parents-don’t touch that; sit down; drink your milk; do up your coat; use your manners; no…you can’t do that; ask for help; no…not right now. As my daughter would say: Blah, blah, blah! Can you imagine what it would be like to live with someone like that?! Constantly in your face telling you what to do and what you can’t do? (No comments from the husbands please!) I realized that we-Moms and Dads-must be pretty hard to take sometimes!
Out of curiosity, I spent the next couple of days paying extra attention to how both my husband and I were speaking to our kids. I was saddened to discover that we were spending a significant amount of time giving directives and rule-reminders and saying no to things that, in the grand scheme of things, were not that big a deal. Yuck. While I fully believe in limits and structure for children, it seemed that we had crossed the line from parental guides to micromanagers-an approach I definitely did not want to be engaging in.
Anytime we find ourselves micromanaging-in any area of our lives-it’s usually a sign that we’ve disconnected from the bigger picture. And that was definitely the case here-I want to teach my children well, but not at the expense of squelching their enthusiasm and independence. In the spirit of the opening quote, I decided it was time to focus on more ways to say yes to my kids-to be more discerning about what I was saying no to and to help them stay connected to possibilities rather than limitations.
If you happen to find yourself crossing the line from guide to micromanager-frequently doling out no’s and directives-here are three uncommon practices you can use to get to yes with your children…
One of the most common pieces of advice we receive as parents is to set fair but firm limits with our children and to be consistent. This is certainly an important practice for helping our children learn, especially when they’re toddlers. But as they get older and the groundwork has been laid, it’s just as important, if not more important, to be flexible.
Imposing a lot of rules and structure with our children is much like trying to hold a beach ball under water: The more you try to control it, the more it will evade you. If we just loosen our grip and let go a little, we find that the beach ball will much more effortlessly move along with us.
Be flexible. Let go of the need to manage every situation and all behaviors and give your children the freedom to lead themselves whenever possible.
Focus on intention.
When we’re stuck in micromanagement mode, no can sometimes become an automatic response to everything. How many times have you said no to your kids without any good reason?! When you’re about to say no to something, pay attention to your intention. Do you have a valid reason for saying no or are you being a stickler?! Is this an opportunity to be flexible? If you don’t have a compelling reason to say no, try saying yes instead.
Sometimes we are too quick to swoop in to give directives to our children on their behavior. Remember that parenting is not about helping our children to lean on us, but to help make leaning unnecessary. One of the ways we can do this is by not interfering and allowing our children to figure things out on their own-without always relying on us.
For example, how many times have you intervened on harmless (albeit annoying) sibling rivalry? Believe me, I have been there, done that! In doing this, what we are really doing is teaching our children to rely on our intervention to resolve their issues-exactly how the infamous tattle-taling evolves.
A helpful rule-of-thumb for deciding whether to intervene or allow is this: If the behavior is not physically, emotionally, or ethically harmful, let it go. If your children look to you for intervention, remind them: You can figure this out. This practice is an important form of saying yes and is a powerful way to foster our children’s independence and confidence in their own abilities.
This month, pay extra attention to how you speak to your children. Are you overly doling out no’s, rule-reminders and directives? Have you shifted into micromanaging your children’s behavior? When you catch yourself defaulting to no and being a stickler for the rules, remember: Be flexible…allow…and, above all, intend to say yes.
About the Author:
Dr. Kelly Pryde is a parenting and self-development expert and the founder of DreamKids-a company dedicated to celebrating and developing the potential of children and families. A speaker, author and mother of two, Kelly holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and offers inspiring and practical ideas for today’s parents. To learn more visit http://www.DrKellyPryde.com or http://www.dreamkids.ca.