"Sit, stand, eat, sleep, stop, be nice, be kind, don’t run, don’t scream, don’t, don’t, don’t…”
You get the picture. Our children can barely breathe without us breathing down their backs. They can hardly make a decision without us screaming our opinions at them, forcing them to comply because we need to be in control.
They say what we want them to say: “Say sorry. Say thank you. Say hello. Say goodbye.”
They eat what we want them to eat: “You have to eat your veggies. You have to eat what is on your plate.”
They do what we make them do: “You must play a sport; You must swim; You must have a hobby; You must…”
And if they rebel, if they show us some sign of individuality, we label them ‘bad’, ‘difficult’ and withdraw our love. We turn our backs on them.
Just because our children are smaller than us and are dependent on us doesn’t give us the right to control them. They are human beings; small, yes; but human beings who deserve respect. By telling them to do what we want and punishing them when they don’t comply, how different are we really from despots and dictators? And most importantly, how much does this make our children want to be around us? Would you want to be around someone who is constantly controlling you? Who tells you how to dress, how to speak, what to eat, what to say and how to be? Or would you avoid them completely?
This is how we rupture the one relationship that is supposed to root our children and give them solid ground beneath their feet. This is how we disconnect.
Our intentions are noble and our heart is in the right place: We want our children to be an asset to the world; to be successful, well adjusted, polite, healthy and perfect. But what we lose in our quest is the thing that makes them special — their uniqueness… the special ways in which they don’t fit in, in which they dare to stand out.
Dictating our children’s lives is more dangerous than we think. Here is what happens:
1. When they obey everything we say, we teach them that they will only be loved if they please everyone around them.
2. When we punish them for not doing as we say, we teach them that doing what they want will make them unlovable.
3. When we control their every move, we teach them to not think for themselves and to fit in, not stand out.
We want our children to be fearless, to take risks and to be the next Steve Jobs, John Lennon, Sheryl Sandberg, Oprah or Indra Nooyi, but what we forget that every successful person in the world succeeds because they learned to listen to their voice, trust in themselves and follow their instinct; they learned to drown out the noise that told them they would fail.
If we want our children to believe in themselves, we have to gently cultivate their ability to look within so they can lean into the one place that is their true north: themselves. Remove your unlived life from their journey. Love is not possession. It is, in every sense, freedom; freedom to be who we are and be loved because of it.
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