Recently I was told that I needed to learn how to control my children. While I believe the comment to be unfounded and the issue of control taken out of context, it is not the first time I have heard something along these lines.
There have been gatherings where elders have been uncomfortable with the risks that my children have been taking, such as climbing a tree or walking around with a fork. While these seem like every day aspects of life to me, these were unreasonable things for my children to be doing in the eyes of others. Or when visiting friends and family my children are told that it’s not safe to stand up on a couch or on a coffee table while these are common place occurrences in our household. Once while traveling out west with my eldest child he fell while running and got a large cut on his face, many of the local mothers told me after seeing his face that the desert was a hard place and that he needed to be kept on a leash. I strongly disagreed with that advice then and I still do now.
I think the concept of control in childhood is an issue. I do not believe my task in mothering my children is to control them, rather to guide them on this journey called life. I think that children need love and guidance in their lives. For me it is a larger question of how we guide our children. I personally find it to be a delicate balance of:
1. Not hindering my children’s natural curiosities that will be their best intuitions and teachers in life.
2. Not letting them become mortally wounded from said curiosities.
3. Not totally losing my shit all day everyday.
Generally speaking I do not stop my children from making mistakes. In making mistakes it allows for the conversation to happen about the consequences of making mistakes, how our actions affect others, how to cultivate and become the person you would like to be, how we become conscious consumers and humans. I’d you have a conversation with my mother about me she never fails to mentions that I ”Always learn the hard way.” After 32 years on this planet I still learn the hard way. I believe it gives me the opportunity to have compassion and understanding when others make similar mistakes. That when I learn something I really know it because I experienced it first hand. Most importantly it gives me the life experience necessary to have the skill set needed for situations of a sinar nature in the future. For every mistake made 100 future mistakes can be avoided.
We as human beings do not grow from comfort we grow from challenges, and I believe that what children need is a safe space to make mistakes. This way they will understand their actions and their implications before they will be tried as an adult.
So when my son is climbing a tree and do not ask him to be careful or to get down. When my daughter is making a big mess in her room I do not ask her to stop but I do gently remind her that whatever she takes out she will be responsible for picking up. Now of course safety is my number one concern. So when my son finds a hatchet in a wood pile I absolutely tell him that he needs to give it to me so I can put it away properly. Or when my youngest is sticking a screwdriver into an electrical socket, I first have a mini heart attack, and then tell her very firmly that she needs to stop what she’s doing, and that daddy’s tools are not toys.
We also have a rules around how we speak to each other. We do not tolerate language that is bullying or judgemental of others. We take a lot of time talking about how we are each different and in our differences the beauty of the world can be seen. When a word is said that is hurtful I ask the speaker if they intended to hurt, if they did what prompted a person to use those words, and if they didn’t mean to hurt somebody I explain that those words are hurtful and cause tears.
Physical harm is also not acceptable. A few weeks ago I sent my son to his room for some quiet time and he let out a barbaric scream and then hit me in the stomach. He looked me straight in the eyes and then ran, because dude knew he crossed the line. I took a deep breath and counted to three and then I followed him to his room and I asked him if he was ready to talk. If people hit or push they are asked to take person all space until they can talk about their grievance.
And more than anything I think it’s important to instill in children a sense of responsibility and accountability from a young age. My children are the ages of 1, 2, and 5 each has their own chores. At this age it is not in relation to each week we do certain tasks rather their chores are linked to the things they do. For example each person eats meals at the table and each person is accountable for bringing their own dishes to the counter. Each person plays with toys and makes a mess and each person is held accountable to pick up after themselves. We have conversations about what it means to take care of our things and when things are broken they are not replaced. Unless of course an individual saves up their own money to replace it.
So in conclusion it may seem like I am not in control of children, but know that it is a calculated choice. I am choosing to do the hard work now, so that when they are adults they do not have to do it alone.