Reading Paxye’s Blog last night inspired me to share some of my own thoughts on this topic on child led living.
Child led living to the point of child centeredness is often a misguided attempt at living mutually or consensually. We absolutely need to be our children’s guide making the bulk of moment to moment decisions. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that our children need the reassurance of knowing that we are in “control”.
“Control” is such a loaded word these days. When you hear control you might think “authoritarian” or that a child’s control is being taken away. When I talk about being in control in regards to my family or children, I’m talking about offering my children reassurance that I have a plan or know what I’m doing. At the very least I’m capable of making the tough decision that need to be made. My children don’t have to think about the basics and are free to be the child they are.
The choices we make need to work for everyone. They should as often as possible succeed in giving freedom to our children and foster their childlike autonomy.
Small children shouldn’t have to make decisions like what order we are going to run errands, what we are going to eat for supper, when we should leave fun places as they start to get tired and overstimulated… That’s unfairly putting a lot of responsibility on them. It’s also not to say that you can’t involve them in some of the choices you’re making either. Part of learning about life is learning about making choices. Just like other life skills I find that the best learning happens through modelling.
It’s important to be in tune with our children. Listen when they offer suggestions. They are often wiser than we realise! Know when going to one more shop will be too much, when they are going to be getting tired and hungry and are best taken home or given some food.
Ironically most tantrums come from being child centered and putting responsibility on our child to know what they need or what should be done in any given moment. Never is it more obviously misguided and even impossible to cater to your child’s every whim than when you have more than one child. Every child is different. I can only imagine how many directions you’d be pulled into if you were always trying to do everything each child wanted you to.
When we make a decision that isn’t in our child’s favour because it’s what’s best for everyone, we need to then help our children through it. They don’t need to agree with our choice but trust that it’s for the best. It’s easier to trust that we will make the best choices with everyone in mind and not in spite of our child when we make an effort to work “with them” (not “do to” them) as often as possible.
With older children “working with” them can be empathising that they would have preferred a different choice and maybe explaining why we made the desicion we did. With younger children it may only be empathising and/or comforting, especially if there are tears. It’s important that we maintain compassion for their feelings and opinions. Using playful methods is another option when working with younger children.
Mutual or consensual living should not be narrowly about only meeting our child’s needs but having every family member’s needs and wishes respected and important. It’s not possible to have everything we want but we can still have dignity even when we are disappointed. Hopefully we can offer our children the same.