Church. It fills my soul. And when I am not teaching Sunday School to the 4 year olds, I love being in service. It seems as though every message I listen to speaks to me, directly to me. Which makes me wonder: is the pastor spying on me? I don’t think he is reading my blog… (Which could be funny if he were given my last What the Flicka post.)
You can see a previous post inspired by church about coping with anger and rage. But the topic that made me sit up this week? The part that seared my heart? Control.
The message was actually about perfection, being perfect, and that gnarly topic. As a topic it makes this perfectionist freeze up and hyperventilate so instead I let my mind wander to my childcare/work debacle. My pulse was racing, my fingers itching to pick up my phone and answer some long-lingering emails. But then, suddenly, BAM. For then the dialogue made a sharp right turn to “control.”
Isn’t that such a terrible word? “Control.” It is dominating, demanding, and certainly not loving. It seems insulting, punishing, and brutal.
Do you know what the pastor asked? Directly, bluntly, he asked: “Do you try to control your children?”
No, of course not!
I mean, I try to raise them right, teach them how to be good people.
Of course, I do control what they eat, when they sleep, how much TV they are allowed to watch…
And I control when they go to school, on playdates, to playgrounds, for walks, and outside…
Right now I am trying to control their summer activities, camps, and schedules…
I also try to control when they have wronged someone and need to apologize.
I try to teach manners, is that controlling what they say?
Not an easy question to answer afterall, it seems.
So how much of that terrible word is actually permissible in our role as parents? How often do we let go and let our children be?
Have you read the book Parenting with Love & Logic? Not saying that you need to rush out and purchase this book, there were times when I wanted to throw it across the room and times when I hugged it. (Maybe some day you’ll get a full review on here.)
The book, however, addresses this particular issue a lot: how much control do we need to give our children over their own lives and how much do we need to control for them?
It is a tricky, careful balance.
I want my sons to feel like their life is theirs. I want them to have independence to make decisions, and to practice decision-making skills while the stakes are low.
Guess what? That means at times I let them wear crocs when it rains, the wrong jacket, or their baseball cap underneath their bike helmet. They can pick their own clothing. If it is too small, has a hole, or completely clashes, that’s OK. Moments like these give them choice where I can let them have it, where as mom I no longer have to worry about their health and safety, where sunglasses inside the movie theatre harms no one.
Besides, it is kind of cute to see a toddler wearing Christmas socks every day, right?
In the past we’ve moved around the TV issue (you can see my article on Mamapedia about my our screen obsessions around here) with TV tickets. We made tickets my preschooler could cash in to watch TV on his own time. But no more tickets meant no more TV.
But these are little steps on a rather big journey…
How do you do it? How do you balance “control” over giving children some independence and freedom?