On Kids and Choices


I thought I was done with books of the self-help genre for a while after finding myself so engrossed in several good novels over my vacation.  But late last week, I was pulled back in after a friend generously gave me a copy of a book they were loving.  The book is called “Conversations with God” and it is a fascinating read.  Since starting it last week, I’ve revisited a lot of the themes that I’ve been working with over the past few months, such as the concept of choice (there are no good or bad choices, only the right choice for you at a point in time), that we cannot judge experiences as good or bad as we don’t know where they will lead us (yup, not much I can argue with on that point), and that we really do create our own reality though our choices and the way we choose to react to the events in our lives.

Lately in our house, we’ve had a lot going on.  My son has both lines for his school play and a speech to memorize.  My daughter is just learning to read.  I’ve been working with both kids trying to instil the concept that with practice, everything gets easier.  The more my son practices his lines and his speech, the easier the will get.  And the more my daughter practices her reading, the easier that will get too.

Now, coupled with the aforementioned book I’ve been reading, I’ve also read several articles lately on kids and how they need to develop resilience.  One of the best was on the site Hands Free Mama.  (If you haven’t read this blog yet, or any of the Hands Free Mama books, you should . . . they are amazing!!!).  This line in her most recent post really got me:

“the characteristics we most want to develop in our children—like resiliency, strength, tenacity, determination, independence, and compassion—come from enduring adverse and challenging situations . . .it is not to rescue, minimize, or abandon my child during her time of need, but instead to listen, support, encourage, and believe in her ability to overcome”

All of this had me wondering.  What would happen if I let my kids make choices for themselves.  Not about big or important things.  Just about little things in their lives.  Like whether or not they practice the lines or their speech or their reading.

This morning, I decided to find out.

I, not so subtly, set out all the things they would need to get their work done along with the charts that they use to track their work.  (Have I talked about this before?  I make up little charts with spaces for them to put stickers once they have done one of their daily chores.  If they hit the target I set out for them – like get 3 stickers a day for a week – then they can pick from a short list of little rewards – like picking out a new book at the bookstore, choosing what we have for dinner one night, that sort of thing.  I wish I could say it was a real motivational tool, but sadly, I think it’s just more work for me than anything else).

And neither kid did a stitch of work.  Admittedly, they were engaged in some awesome free play.  But neither kid got any work done.

In the car on the way to school, I talked to them both about what had happened – that I had set out their work, and that they had chosen not to do any of it.  I explained to them that I was a little disappointed in the choices that they had made.  And that as they grew up, it becomes less and less of my responsibility to remind them to do their work, and more and more it becomes their responsibility to remember and get it done.

Over dinner, we had the opportunity to revisit the concept of choices.  We talked about hard work and determination and how we achieve the things that we most want in life by making choices that support our goals – or in simper terms, by choosing to practice lines, speeches, and reading we will be able to deliver our lines, our speeches, and read without worrying.

I’m not sure any of this has really sunk in with either child yet.  I’m not sure it’s sunk in with me yet either (if I’m to be frank . . . I chose to make muffins this afternoon when I should have been finishing up this post and doing some other work I have on the go).

Regardless, I am very much enjoying working through this concept with the kids, and I’m excited to see where we end up with it.

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