June 2, 2015

Letting your Kids have a Voice doesn’t Make you a Bad Parent.


“If I had spoken to my parents the way some children do now, I wouldn’t be here to share this status. Some children need to learn the meaning of respect.”

This line has always triggered me for several reasons.

First off, if I had been allowed to be my wild, love-filled little self when I was a kid, maybe it wouldn’t have taken me 40 years to feel worthy.

Secondly I feel this pang of guilt; maybe I am a horrible mother for letting my kids be themselves, have a voice in our home, and work out the hows of communicating their truth to the people around them.

Lastly, what the heck do you mean by wouldn’t be here? Like you would have been beaten, abused, or locked in a closet, all for trying to stand up for your little self?

These feelings are tricky. My truth is that when my daughter speaks up for herself, however disrespectful that sounds to the outside world, I cheer inside. I want her to be able to have a voice against what she feels is unfair and unconscious. She’s an incredible, sensitive, smart, loving, caring individual. Her having a voice doesn’t make her bad or disrespectful. I see a leader.

From dictionary.com:

Disrespectful: Lacking courtesy, rude, impolite.

Are we rude or impolite when we stand up for what we believe in, or defend ourselves against a personal attack? Maybe, but could it be appropriate for self-preservation? I say, yes.

Respect means different things to different people. How do we know which version is right?

From dictionary.com:

Respect: esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.

I have great respect for her judgment.

Speaking up and expressing yourself is only disrespectful depending on the subjective opinion of the person listening. What you believe about being disrespectful was handed down to you…from whom? How do you know this definition is right? Why do you believe it?

If respect is the sense of worth of a person, who gets to decide what’s worthy? Your parents? Teachers? The President? The Pope? If there were nobody left to disappoint, upset or offend, who would you become? Thank you Torrie Pattillo for that one!

I want my daughter to move into her adult life with a voice—the one it took me so long to find. What if she starts her life like that, I wonder? What magnificent things might be possible for her if she knows she’s worthy and claims every ounce of her outgoing, strong, creative, leadership personality, instead of being squashed by her parents and teachers and labeled disrespectful? “Shut up, you bad little girl, you are disrespecting your parents, don’t talk back, don’t speak up your truth to me—I don’t want to hear it!”

Ugh, are you kidding me?

I want to find out what she might become if her voice and worth isn’t squashed. I’m willing to sit and listen when she “talks back.” I’m willing to teach her how to communicate her truth and preserve her message, voice and self-worth without setting others’ triggers on fire.

So I pick my battles. If I think she’ll hurt someone, or is being out-right mean, I’ll call her on it. If she’s disagreeing with a rule that’s being enforced, I’ll listen to what she has to say before I “discipline” her for just disagreeing. If my daughter wants to leave the house in 30 degree weather without a coat, that’s not a battle I fight. She can make a choice and learn from the consequences. Just because I believe that she should wear a coat doesn’t mean I have to force her to wear it.

For many battles I can think of, it’s always a control issue. The parent, teacher or coach needs or wants to control the behavior of the child based on their belief of what is right behavior. I know there are certain behaviors that aren’t particularly acceptable in certain situations, so I’m not talking about when your toddler hits someone, or tantrums in the middle of a department store.

I’m talking about when kids are trying to express themselves, find themselves, and test their boundaries. About when they are being their crazy, wild, energetic, enthusiastic selves, and we can’t handle it. There has to be a way to let this happen without squashing their spirits and trying to make our own discomfort go away by calling their expression disrespectful.

I’m still looking for best ways to do this with my kids—kids who are healthy, good, smart and caring. I want them to be the best, compassionate, successful, happy adults they can be. I know I’m molding that. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wonder what shit they will have to overcome later that has to do with me…maybe being a push-over.

I think the worst will be that they grow up and realize the success they desire in life takes more than “ask and you shall receive.” They might have to find out for themselves what it means to have to do all their own chores and contribute to a healthy family of their own. I don’t have any regrets about how I’ve done and continue to do things. I pour my love onto them every day. I don’t miss a chance for a hug, a kiss or a compliment. I reinforce the best things about what they are doing and I think that kind of positive, on-purpose focus will mold them just fine.

People may disagree with the way I’ve chosen to do things and wait for everything to blow up in my face. But I’m ready for the blow up. I’ll deal with that differently too. Let “Mom’s a Push-over” be the thing my kids have to get therapy for. It’ll be easier than, “Mom was so unconscious she had to control everything I ever said or did,” or worse, “My voice doesn’t matter.”

Parenting with awareness takes courage and discipline, like everything else. It takes slowing down to feel your own feelings about what’s happening and decide where your feelings, triggers and beliefs are coming from. It’s through that awareness, and only through that, that you will have a choice about how you relate to your kids, or anyone for that matter.



Why Some Parents & their Children have Great Friendships.


Author: Laura Probert

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Flickr/J.K. Califf

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