controlling vs. guiding your children

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A few weeks ago I asked my 5 year old to get ready for bed.  His response “NO, I am not ready and I will go to bed when I am ready”…that totally took me by surprise.  I was expecting his normal, “Okay mom, I will in just a few minutes.”  My immediate reaction was to raise my voice and let him know that he has no choice and that he had to go to bed that second.  He reacted very quickly to my response and literally said, “No I will do what I want even if I never want to go to bed.”

He was totally testing my patience, while I was trying to get my 2 year old to bed, so I sat there and had to take a deep breath.  The conversation was going nowhere.  I was getting so upset that I wasn’t getting the response I wanted and he was getting so frustrated and angry that I was making him do something with no option at all.  I could have continued yelling, and then probably ended up with a crying child who was overly tired and wouldn’t wake up in time for school the next day.  It seemed like the easiest choice at that time though and guess what? I decided to go with that and learned the hard way: I had to deal with a crying child who was upset going to bed.

I ended my night feeling defeated; a sad child, a frustrated mom and no positive outcome to our initial problem.  

I started reading a lot of articles from other parents about the difference between guiding and controlling and it truly opened my eyes.  Being super Type A  person, it is very easy to be a controlling mom. It’s one of my weaknesses I guess and I don’t even realize I am like that until things like this happen.  It’s so easy to just raise your voice and make your child do what you want and expect to get the exact response that you want, but that is not giving them a chance to become a person.  I realized, I often limit boundaries more than I should because I expect them to be a certain way.  Of course, there are certain things in terms of manners and behavior that I won’t negotiate on, such as hitting adults.

I felt lost in finding the balance between controlling and guiding.  

I felt like I I had no idea how to communicate with my child.

I didn’t want to accept the fact that as he gets older, he is going to want to make some decisions on his own.

To those parents that can relate to me, I want to share my advice with you.  I now base most of my conversations with my kids on choices.  Giving them a chance to understand the choices they have and to allow for the impacts those choices make.  Sometimes what they choose may not be the best choice, but that’s my job as a parent to guide them in the right direction and not necessarily force them in a direction they don’t want to go.  I try to make them go through a decision making process so they can build trust in their choices and try to look at situations from all different sides. On the other hand, I still make sure both my boys understand that following mommy and daddy’s rules are very important and there are still boundaries to this whole choices thing.

A simple example: my 5 year old has 5 workbooks to finish in 6 days each week.  I used to force him to do one a day no matter what, because I felt that was the best option.  Now I approach it in a different way…I give him options to get them done and let him decide what he wants to do. Does he have the option to not do them?  No, that’s when you as a parent have to take some control.  Sometimes he waits until the night before and is up way past bedtime, but that teaches him to not wait until the last minute. By him experiencing that on his own, got through to him MUCH better than me raising my voice and telling him what he had to do no matter what.

We often times forget age is just a number.  Just like adults, kids need that thought process to build confidence and trust in themselves and the choices they make. 

How are you handling giving choices to your own kids? Would love to hear below 🙂

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