How often do children really need to be told what to do?steemCreated with Sketch.

in #parenting3 years ago


I realize there ARE, of course, situations where you need to control a child, especially when they are helpless clueless babies. I'm betting we can all agree on that. So, in my experience, I've found that a patient, curious, and thoughtful parent committed to respect for free will and independence will find a surprising number of instances where they can choose to let go of their desire to control, protect, fix, advise, or reassure and instead just be a great example.

So let's embrace the idea that while yes, of course, we DO control in some unavoidable ways, like providing safe boundaries, for example, these are the exceptions to the norm of allowing children to think what they want, say what they want, and do what they want, as long as they are not infringing on the needs and boundaries of those around them. Peaceful parenting is not permissive parenting and it is not authoritarian parenting, either.

Here are a few examples of parents who mean well (we all do) making assumptions about needing to control their children in order to keep them safe, healthy, etc.

  • "But I HAVE to tell her to put a coat on or she'll go out in that weather and catch a cold!"
    What if saying nothing works best here? Seriously. If it's really that cold out, why would your child not figure it out within seconds of walking out the door? What if you were to experiment with just staying silent and allowing the child to experience the discomfort brought on by their decision, so they then learn a valuable lesson all on their own? Bonus: Every time you choose to forgoe being a dictator, you increase trust and connection.

  • "But I HAVE to force him to eat his veggies!"
    No you don't. Your child's body will accept and reject the foods required. They may experiment at times with excess and this will be a learning experience for them if you don't interfere. However, if you choose to exert too much control of their eating choices, they will either rebel outwardly, secretly (sneak snacks), or internalize. Where do you think most adults with unhealthy eating habits got them from?

  • "But I HAVE to force her to share her toys or she will never learn generosity!"
    No. In fact, you are going to create the opposite from what you intend. We need to feel ownership before we can share. Sharing is a voluntary thing. Forced sharing is not sharing; it's stealing. It's showing a child their body and property rights can be violated by someone wearing the size, badge, costume, or label of "authority". Which path leads to authentic sharing from the heart? Be an example or role model, not a tyrant.

  • "But I HAVE to force him to say please and thank you or he will not know how to be polite!"
    No you don't. How much do you value authenticity and autonomy/choice? Do YOU want someone to be nice to you because they were forced to? What is the impact of resentment? When you force a child to "be nice," you are teaching them to ignore their own needs in order to please others. You are teaching them to be fake.

A few other articles I've written here on peaceful parenting and the important ingredient called empathy:


I'm not a parent, but my favourite line on parenting is from Frank Furedi's 'Paranoid Parenting' - 'abandon your fears and be a good parent'. The general line in the book is that children really don't need that much guidance, otherwise everyone born in the 1950s, or in many developing countries where children have to fend for themselves a lot of the time, would be fucked up, and we're/ they're not.

The pressure to 'parent' is social - and has emerged, according to Furedi, because adults have lost control over every other aspect of their lives, and are themselves anxious, so they transfer their fears onto their poor kids - the result is anxious kids and a mental health crisis due to over-parenting.

I've never understood the idea of forcing kids share what is rightfully theirs and I defintely hate grown-ups asking 'won't you give my your ...whatever toy it is?'
Kids share things voluntarily with children they want to play with and learn from one another the value of sharing.

You are absolutely right. Set the boundaries early and then let the kid learn from experience. If you are to overbearing your child will not learn to think for themselves.

The part about food is spot on. My parents never made me eat if I didn't want to and today, I eat everything but don't obsess about food. When my kids whined about what they were served I encouraged them to take a bite and try it, but didn't force them to "clean their plate." I didn't give them an alternative either. If they weren't hungry enough to eat good food, I guessed they weren't hungry. Both of them are now gourmet cooks and my grandchildren prefer whole, nutritious food without being forced into it. Sometimes their friends will come visit and simply sit and look at the food on their plates because it isn't chicken nuggets or mac and cheese. Some even bring "food" from home. Their parents don't engage their children, don't bother to give them guidance but just give in to their whining and give them pop-tarts instead of broccoli to keep the peace. These kids are sickly and tend to be the types that withdraw into their cell phones whenever they get the chance. To me, it's scary. What kind of adults will these kids turn into.

Thank you for this post. Upvoted and resteemed.

Nice post, i hope that many parents gets a different point of view with it ^^.

Terrific post! Once you start with the principle that children are equal people with their own sovernty then the rest falls into place. Well done :)

I am grateful to you! Thank you for this post.

I love the portion of your article where you talk about forcing sharing on children. I never forced my sons to share and yet, naturally, when they felt confident that they were respected, they were and are extremely generous people. I doubt that would have been the case if I had forced them to share before they even understood why it might be of a value to do so.