Letting go of control is my calling in this world. At least it strongly feels like it. It’s a topic that comes up again and again. It’s makes me sing and warm around me heart and it makes me want to cry. I just feel very passionate about it.
There are several situations a day that I ask myself if I am just doing something because I want to do it this way or because it has to be done this way…am I stuck in a pattern or am I deciding with my heart what’s good in this specific moment.
Example: My sweet little Niki is going crazy…yelling, hitting, screaming…because he wants chocolate milk to drink, although he has a glass of water and a zippy cup of apple juice standing in front of him and maybe even a yogurt drink, that he had all asked for…
What are my choices here as a parent/guide? In my head are many voices in these moments and really kids don’t give you a very long time to listen to the voices…for them everything seems urgent, even life threatening ;-)…and you need to act quickly…
One voice of course says, stick with whatever you told him…you can’t give in. At this time I probably have told him, no more drinks. So, that voice wants me to fight for my will.
And the voice goes on: I did have reasons to say this…of course we probably had the same craziness already about the two other drinks that came after the water…so, just stop already! If I give in now, he will be crazy with everything and I have no choice to just give in with other things too…he’ll never be satisfied…
The other thing is I really don’t like to be wasteful and I know that at least 2 and a half of these 4 drinks will go down the drain later…
BUT there is another voice! Let’s take a second here to not think about me and my reasons…what happens if we actually think about him? What are his reasons? Why is he acting this way ‘just’ because of a drink when he already has 3 drinks standing in front of him?
He feels controlled by me and doesn’t like it. For a 3-year-old he is a pretty independent child and likes his freedom. He doesn’t just react, he explodes…he is a very expressive child and he probably just changed his mind because he saw his brother going for a chocolate milk (as his first and only drink) and he just thought that this looks very tempting and good to him too and he changed his mind.
Let’s think about it. Do you never change your mind last minute? Do you never have cravings when you walk through a grocery store and buy things that just look delicious to you in that moment? Maybe you even open the bag of chips/crackers/cookies even before you get to the register… What if somebody wanted to stop you from doing so?
Are you never wasteful? What about that tea/coffee that you already reheated three time that day and still pour out at the end of the day because you never got to it?
At the end, our goal is to raise a child that grows into an independent person, who makes good choices in his/her life…
The only way to do this, is to let them be independent and make choices…we can’t decide for them all the time! They only learn by taking action and making them themselves…just like they have to practice so many other things to be able to perfect them…
So, this is what I have been experimenting with for a couple of weeks:
Niki gets a lot of freedom.
I am ok with him coming downstairs into the kitchen and wanting a piece of candy as his first ‘food’ of the day. He then proceeds to make himself crêpes on the hot skillet. These crêpes usually turn out to be about 30 tiny little drops of batter and a couple of bigger splashes that are connected with thin lines of batter…a real piece of artwork, but watch out! Don’t break these when putting them on his red, orange or light green plate! But he eats them with delight and feels good about it 🙂
He picks the cup that he wants his milk in and he puts the chocolate or strawberry powder in it by himself. The mess that lands next to the cup, I clean up, no problem!
A couple of weeks ago this looked very different. Because I forbid the candy, everything went downwards…whining, screaming and wanting to be carried while I tried to make breakfast for three and lunch and snack for Noah for school…he couldn’t decide on breakfast and made me run around like a headless chicken because I was slowly running out of time and getting really stressed.
This is just an example, but there are so many things that seem to flow better since I try to rarely say NO. We talk through things and I try to guide him, but at the end he decides what seems to be best for him. All of a sudden our 30min session of ‘picking his outfit’, only takes 5min and these even happen while I am still in the shower! He just goes to his room, picks the outfit and even puts it on! I couldn’t believe my eyes when he did this for the first time a couple of days ago! And he has been doing it since!
And because I don’t say NO a lot, he is usually totally fine when I actually do so. I also feel like I am getting better in being conscious about where my reasoning is coming from. Is it coming from my controlling mind or from love?!
Today we started sitting down at the breakfast table. On one side of the table Niki was looking at a magazine to circle in toys that he would like for his birthday. He couldn’t decide what he wanted to eat, so I let him do that first and hoped that he would decide after looking at the magazine. Noah wanted to see too, so he said next to him. Noah’s food was waiting for him at ‘his place’ on the opposite side of the table. I asked him to please sit and eat, but he was busy looking at the magazine with Nik.
I went to the bathroom and pretty much gave them some ‘alone time’. When I came back I couldn’t believe my eyes! They had both pushed their chairs around the whole table to sit by Noah’s food and Noah was eating his breakfast. They were happily chatting about the toys. Niki was still circling in almost every single toy while Noah was eating. Also, Noah did not try to take over and grab the marker out of Nik’s hand, which probably would have happened a couple of weeks ago.
I then made Niki a slice of bread with Nutella without asking him what he wanted to eat and without a sound he just started eating as soon as I set it down next to the magazine in front of him. No fussing! Nothing.
I think he begins to understand that I give him a lot of freedom and when I don’t, it’s ok, because ‘his freedom and independence bucket’ is already full.
What’s really important for me, to be able to give my kids the space needed, I have to have my act together. I need to get up early to have time for myself to be ready to actively create uncontrolled space for them. I don’t ‘work’ well together with my children when there is time pressure. Under pressure there is no room for patience and without patience there is not extra space for them to live out their individuality and need for independence.
I am very curious where this is going to go. I feel like we are still at at the beginning of this trial, a couple of weeks in, but so far I have been amazed how quick this has made a notable difference in our lives.
If you are interested, read this book: Unconditional Parenting, Moving from rewards and punishment to love and reason by Alfie Kohn.
This has really opened my eyes to another style of parenting and shown me that I can go so much further than I had imagined in letting them be free!
Have a nice weekend and snuggle your loved ones a bit tighter without limiting their need for freedom 🙂