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.

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why I won’t enroll my toddler in summer camps

frustrated-child

I’ll never forget a poem my pre-teen niece wrote a few years ago, about the fast race of life (as she put it) that involved waking up and having to go to school, rushing to activities, finishing HW and then off to bed for a new fast day.

At least for her, she was older, but often I look at my little toddler and think when did childhood become a race we rush through?
But why are we stressing out our kids?
While I am all for learning and experiences to broaden their minds, the problem comes in when we overload the day. Mommas are super stressed because they are the ones who are typically responsible for getting everyone where they need to be. Plus we are stressing because of all the costs involved in the programs we put our kids into that can really add up!
And while it’s important to continue to challenge and expand their horizons, the thing that gets me is… we actually might be stressing our kids out rather than educating or entertaining them at certain times.

let kids be kids

We went camping by a lake recently and as I watched my 3 year old daughter walk to a pretend castle in the canopy of trees that surrounded us, as she imagined that a pile of leaves was a slide at the park, I saw how kids don’t have to have structured lessons to learn all the time. Give them some some space in nature and they will do great on their own. Playing in dirt, pouring water in and out of things, jumping in leaves, skipping rocks…kids need time to do this stuff.

But if we are constantly rushing them to and from back-to-back lessons, when do they have time to be kids? To observe nature? When do they get to run and play? To imagine and create? While structured learning has it’s place and is valuable, so does being able to learn and discover life’s gifts on their own. [Read more…]