As I mentioned before, I’ve been reevaluating everything. One of those areas is in my parenting. One of the many common threads in the patriarchal homeschool movement I grew up in, as well as in the church we were in, is the amount of control exhibited by those considered the head of the home and church. Children, even adult children, have little say over their lives as the parents and pastors make all the decisions for them. I’ve often wondered why. I think that there are several reasons but one very obvious one is fear…fear of letting those in our care make mistakes or choose something different than we deem to be the best for them. But, in an attempt to “help” them are we in actuality hindering them?
I’ve been reading a book lately called Parenting with Love and Logic. While I’m not sure I agree with everything in it, it has certainly prompted me to look more closely at just how often I’m making the decisions FOR my children rather than helping them learn to make their own decisions and learn from them. Part of being a responsible adult is knowing how to think things through, seek help when we need more information, pray about our choices, and make a decision. Accepting the results of those decisions – both positive and negative – is part of taking responsibility for our own decisions. If another person is making all of the decisions for you in life, you are not living as a responsible adult.
One of my goals as a parent is to raise my children to be responsible adults. Since part of that is making decisions, what better time to train them than now when the consequences of those decisions are far less than many of the decisions they’ll need to make as an adult? Better to give it a try now, and learn from it, than never have the opportunity to learn and mess up big time later.
As I thought this over I realized just how often I make the decisions for my children without including them in the decision making process. I’ve been trying to catch myself and find opportunities to let them decide. The more I include them, the more confident they become and the more they own the decisions made. When they make a decision they aren’t doing something JUST because mom said it’s best; they are doing it because they see the wisdom in it and OWN it as their own.
I had a chance to put this into practice last week when I took my oldest to a book store to buy a Bible and found myself wanting to pick it out for him! As he gravitated towards one Bible and I gravitated towards another, I suddenly felt God speaking to me. “It’s HIS Bible”, He said. I froze. What do you know, I had almost forgotten that! Sometimes in choosing FOR our children we make decisions based on what we like, what we prefer, what we think is great, what we need, what WE would do. In the process are we failing to see our children as different than us? As their own individual person, with their own likes and dislikes, with their own preferences, their own desires, their own needs?
I immediately changed the way I approached the situation. I let him know that the final decision would be up to him. I gave him a price range in which he could choose, pointed out things in each of the Bibles he had looked at that would be helpful (version, print size, helps, etc.) and then literally walked away so he would feel free to look and make his own decision – and so I wouldn’t be tempted to interfere! 😉 I browsed through books in the next isle over and periodically would walk over, look around, and then walk away again. I didn’t ask if he needed help; if he wanted it he would ask. After quite some time had gone by I checked on him again and noticed that he had narrowed it down to two Bibles. I asked how it was going and he showed them to me. He pointed out what he liked, and didn’t like, about each one and we talked about them.
I was so proud of him when he made his decision. He had picked a specific Bible for some very specific reasons! He picked his Bible up and proudly carried it to the counter so we could pay for it. I watched him standing tall, shoulders back, shy smile on his face as he handed it to the lady behind the counter and told her that this was the one he wanted. What a difference than if I had picked out a Bible for him and then gave it to him – my choice, my style, my preference! I would have totally missed out on this opportunity to let him grow and learn. I would have satisfied my desire for him to have the “perfect” Bible and missed out on the opportunity for him to be able to pick out the perfect Bible FOR HIM and OWN that decision. I would have missed the opportunity to let him gain confidence in his own ability to make good decisions in his life.