“We are our choices.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre
Our choices define us, guide us, break us and make us who we are. But how often do we allow our children to make their own choices?
Let me begin from the time when I was a child. My parents believed they were pretty generous in letting me have things my way when in my heart it was not the case.
From the dolls I played with to the clothes I wore, the friends I had, to what I did with my free time, all was guided by what my parent’s deemed right for me. I was given choices but before my little mind could rationalize what it really wanted to do, my parents would have already finalized it for me.
I never resisted because the idea “Parents know it better” was drummed into my mind to seal the deal, every single time. Time flew, I grew and little did I knew that what started with which frock I should wear to a party or which water bottle should I buy, would go ahead to what subjects should I pick in high school to my line of work and not stopping at that, but also playing a life-changing or more aptly life-damaging role in choosing who should I spend the rest of my life with.
In writing, it sounds rather foolish or weird on my part to have allowed all this to happen to me. But deep down, though it felt like my parents were stepping on my toes, I felt like a puppet in their hands dancing to their tunes.
Blame it on social conditioning or my timidness, but all along the only thing I remember being said was, “She chose to do so.”
The lack of freedom to choose, to be able to take my time, analyse based on my liking right from the time I was a toddler bloomed into a personality disorder where I learnt to look up to my parents for every choice in life.
Initially, the instant success was exhilarating, but as I grew and my liking forked ways from that of my parents’, the burden of bearing the cross of other’s expectations began to weigh me down.
But, I had no inkling of how to act otherwise. My mind was handicapped because it’s decision-making centre hadn’t grown beyond that of a three-year-old. I wanted to be assertive but I was lost because I lacked a clue about the steps needed to form an opinion.
My parents successfully saved me from failing in my early years but failed to teach me how to continue onward on that winning spree. In the doldrums of my life when everyone, including my parents, decided to part ways with me, I reflected, dug up my life to realize where did it all start. This is what guided me to implement a new strategy in bringing up my own child.
The strategy was simple. I would walk through my child what each choice would entail and then leave it up to her to choose. Sounds simple, but living in the same home as my parents, implementing something unheard of in my family took me a lot of assertion to achieve.
The results at the start were crazy.
My daughter would insist on wearing one particular frock to every party, to always eat savoury foods over anything sweet, to pick only dresses, frocks or skirts to wear and no pants of any sort, to choose floral prints for everything around her and so on.
It was a first for me to let someone dear have her way. I was warned I was ruining a child’s future. I was shunned for being a parent who couldn’t control her child’s choices, but I played along.
When Pari opts to stop eating when she is full, I never force feed her or tell her to clean up her plate. Instead, I encourage her to serve smaller portions in the future so that nothing goes waste. When Pari insists on eating an ice cream for dinner, I offer her the choice to race with me in finishing the dinner and the winner getting a larger scoop of ice-cream.
No, not always my tricks work.
Neither do I always agree with the choices Pari makes.
I do make sure to find a way of letting her know my points of view but I let her have the final word. When things go wrong, we sit back and talk about how the outcome could have been different. This way, choosing is a first step to adding to experiences for my child without pressing her heart down with my wishes or biases.
Giving away something you’ve never had on your own can be pretty daunting but the hope to see my child achieve what I can only dream of is motivation enough to let me continue on my new-found path.
Are you letting your children make their own choices?
* This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge. My theme is Parenting.
Please find my other parenting posts here.