If I asked you, “What is the main purpose of a parent?” I’d probably get the following responses:
1. To be their child’s guide in life
2. To love their child unconditionally
3. To teach their child good values
4. To protect their child
5. To offer their child support through life
Although all of the above are important and offer a beautiful image of what a loving parent/child relationship can look like, I would like to suggest that the REAL goal of any parent should be to teach their child to become their own parent.
We need a new generation of kids – ones who rely on themselves, who avoid emotional letdowns, who know they have skills and the ability to use them and who lead happy and fulfilled lives without needing to consult their parent (You) forever.
How can we accomplish this? There are some specific ways that I teach, however the most powerful way is to allow our children to make choices based on how each choice makes them feel and how their choice will make others feel.
From as early on as possible, probably starting at around 3-4 years old, teach your child that when they make a choice – any choice at all – they should ask themselves two things:
a. What are the consequences of this choice?
b. Will this choice I’m making now bring happiness to me and/or those around me?
I used to have a very large poster hanging on the wall in my classroom that read: If you make a choice you must be willing to accept the consequence of that choice.
I referred to this poster over and over again and it became one of our class mantras. The children became very conscious when they were about to make a choice and therefore behaviours and classroom dynamics were incredible. In addition to this, children began feeling better about themselves and more confident. Even the students who came in with a “bad kid” legacy changed. They began to see that they were in control of their lives, that they had a choice and that good choices led to positive outcomes for themselves and the others around them.
When teaching your child how to consciously make a good choice, state the choices then say,
“Think about the choice you are about to make. How does your body FEEL inside? Is it one of comfort or discomfort?”
I tell children that most people feel these sensations in their heart/chest area or in their stomach. Making this a concrete/feeling experience is the perfect way to help kids understand the concept as well as get them to connect to their inner voice more often.
Train them to say to themselves, “If I make this choice, what happens?” If their body sends a message of comfort, that’s the right choice. If their body sends a message of discomfort, then it’s probably not the appropriate choice.
Kids really tune into this and it makes sense to them when you put it this way. The added benefit of this is that you’re teaching your child to stop and tune into themselves – what an invaluable and forever giving gift you’ll be giving!