Children appreciate choices
- When you give them choices, they feel respected.
- It empowers them within the safety of the choices.
- The range of choices change as the maturity grows.
The ultimate aim in my parenting was to have children that became autonomous, self-reliant and able to pursue happiness in whatever way that was meaningful to them. It wasn’t to create mini-me’s where they would only reflect my ideals.
I think all parents would like their children to be a little more this, and a little less that – however we must respect that they are their own person. We don’t own them and they don’t owe us anything. As Kahlil Gibran says in The Prophet, “…You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts.”
When my children were young, I was a volunteer for Meals on Wheels. It is a service where I collected large boxes with many meals inside along with a map and specific instructions on where to go. I would drive to the address, find the right house or unit, knock on the door and wait for the person to answer. Sometimes they needed small jobs done while I was there. Maybe to post some mail or retrieve something from a high shelf. One time it was to read mail that had arrived as the person was blind. The people were always appreciative. Most were old people but some were younger and very unwell. I was aware that many times this was the only good meal they were going to have that day. And many times, I imagine I was the only person they were going to talk with that day also.
My children were given a couple of choices. They could help to put the right numbered meals together, as there would be two items for each person. Or they could help by reading the navigation instructions for finding the right address. And they could also come to the door with me to deliver the meal and participate in the conversation if they wanted. It was a service we could all participate in.
After it was over, we would have a small celebration – maybe I would buy a treat for our lunch. This service when we participated in every few months, taught them to respect the elderly. It made them aware of other people’s needs and that all towns and cities have people who are no longer capable of making meals for themselves.
It wasn’t always convenient or comfortable to do this service. It was a choice I made, and a choice my children could choose to participate in or not. They always choose to come with me.
The next time you are wanting your child to do something and it is becoming an issue, it may help to think of the choices that are involved. If you can think of a way that can be a Win/Win for you all, you may find you are able to pass on a valuable life skill.