In our home, we don’t teach our kids that there are consequences for their behavior – we don’t fabricate a world for their learning of the negative, or for the purpose of giving them lessons. In our home, results of behavior occur for the child just as they do for the adult. Of course, if a result would be harmful or damaging, we buffer, but otherwise we do not. When a result should occur for the purpose of them learning something, and in fact nothing related really happens, we either simply verbalize our relevant thoughts or we let it be, trusting that the child will acquire the necessary understanding at a later time when the child is ready.
Parenting like this requires trust in the mind of the developing child, openness in communication and raw relating from parent to the child, and a complete lack of fear of losing control – because there is no “controlling” in the first place.
Does this lack of control mean my kids run my home? Actually, to some it may seem that they have too much influence because we choose to accept and accommodate their wants, preferences, and needs as equal to our own. Yet, if someone were to be a fly on the wall, they’d see that this respect we bestow upon the children is returned without force. I don’t need to control my child because I trust her ability to reason, I don’t fear her making a mistake because I trust in her ability to accept herself and learn through experience, and I am willing to be inconvenienced for the duration of her childhood when necessary.
There are exceptions, when I must enforce something out of practicality. Even then, however, my prevailing mentality is not to direct but to allow her to explore and learn through her own understanding and experiences. Tonight my kiddo (4) decided to set a square box (cushioned cube) to sit upon, right in front of the tv. Initially, I talked with her about the decision as she was too near the tv and the tv isn’t securely mounted as of yet (it’s new). I asked her to make certain that if she was going to leave the cube to sit on so near the tv that she not bump the stand (or make the tv move) at all.
A few minutes passed and before long, she’d stretched herself between the cube and the tv stand like a bridge, and needless to say, the tv was jostled and wiggling in time with her own movements. I watched for a few moments, to determine whether she’d correct the situation on her own. She didn’t. I stepped in.
I knelt near her, paused the program she was engaged in, asked for her eye contact, and said in a flat and gentle tone, with respect and not condescension in my voice, “Bugz, your feet on the stand are causing the tv to move too much. There’s a good chance the tv might get damage because of how much it’s moving, and how close you are to it. I mentioned to you just a few moments ago that if you were going to sit on the cube so near the tv you’d have to make sure not to bump the tv or the stand… (She reflects, then I continue.) I see the tv is still moving a bit even after you’ve now taken your feet off the stand. I don’t want our new tv damaged and this concerns me.”
Her response, “Why does the tv move so much?”
My explanation, “Because the stand is meant to allow for some movement safely that won’t damage the tv, but we don’t have the tv in a good place yet and so it’s not secure. It’s my job to mount the tv and I haven’t done it yet. I know.. if it were, then we wouldn’t be talking about it..”
She responds, “Yeah, so can you fix it cuz I want to make a bridge but I don’t want to mess up the tv.”
I simply told her at that point that I wasn’t going to mount it at this time (I’m sick today, the room isn’t ready, the wall isn’t ready… I’m procrastinating… etc, etc.) and that the she was welcome to continue using the cube to sit on, but that it would need to be moved back a few feet from the tv. She responded with some annoyance and disappointment, but she acknowledged me and picked up the cube, moved it to the center of the room (6′ or so from the tv) and resumed watching her show. Shortly thereafter, she found herself climbing on the back of the couch, mimicking the cat on the tv, and was quite pleased.
I acknowledged her interest in the physical elements of the placement of the cube. She likes to climb, stretch, jump, and teeter on things that are entirely not stable but she manages. She also actively interacts with the tv, as we don’t use it except for education and/or entertainment that she physically responds to/with. It’s unfair of me to restrict her just because I am too lazy to take care of the reason I am compelled to restrict in the first place. If I took the time to mount the thing as it is meant to be, or at least set it onto a surface that was safer than what I have chosen, the entire conversation would never have happened. She knows this. She knows I have chosen to procrastinate, and that as a result I have had to ask her to forgo something she finds enjoyable. Yet she doesn’t throw a fit, doesn’t intentionally defy me.. She also (this time) didn”t refuse to respect my request even with my own laziness being the cause, and her being well aware of it. She chose to acknowledge the real concern I had for preserving the electronic equipment, chose to respect my request because it made sense to her and she happened to value the same that I did in tihs case, and she chose to modify what she could do to suit her desire to use her body to enjoy what she was watching on the tv.
Does she always make these decisions that go my way? No. But most of the time she does, and most of the time, I make decisions that go hers. Though, if I demand something I can almost guarantee her respect and consideration of me, my wants, expectations, etc., become the very last thing she is interested in honoring. Is an adult any different?
So, I don’t demand, and I don’t control. I guide, educate, share and communicate very openly, demonstrate empathy and equal respect, respond out of compassion, and gently smile as the amazing things really impress me and the not so great just fade a moment later out of importance. I screw this up a lot too… but the more I mess up, the more aware I become, and the I can choose how I interact, and what being in the position to parent really means.