I’d like to think that I have a lot of respect for Potamus, even though he is a tiny little human. I give him a lot of space to roam and come back to me. I genuinely look at him as a very small person with needs, feelings, and wishes of his own. But, in Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, I was challenged by this notion of control, and how it might manifest in the way of cooperation. Naomi Aldort’s premise is that children need unconditional love, and because they crave it, they might give in to areas that their parent are trying to control so that they feel like they’re loved…even though she asserts that “giving up their will is the cause of most of the difficulties with children.”
So, it made me wonder…do you sometimes think:
How can I get her to do chores, be quiet, stop the tantrum, eat her food, etc., reflect a wish to control the child. IT is about ‘making’ the child do what the parent wants; the child has to give up what she wants, which is giving up on herself.
Whoa, right? Guilty as charged. Though when I read that I thought to myself, “big whoop, we all have to do things we don’t want to do.” But do you remember that feeling? When you’re doing XYZ and then you havetostoprightthisminute because someone arbitrarily (in your mind) tells you to? Or, if you had a family member who only expressed love to you when you behaved in a certain way, or got good grades, did you wonder, deep down, whether they really loved the real you? I certainly have!
I think this is the one that I’m going to have to mull over the longest. The book suggests offering chances for children, even young toddlers, to engage with, even asking for help…but with the freedom for the child to choose yes to help or no to not, just like we’d do with adults. The part of me that listens to Mother Culture says “no no no, adults are in charge, they are big and can ask for requests and to expect it to be done.” The still, quiet part of me, knows that even when I was small I had opinions and wanted to do things myself and not be asked or badgered into doing them. Or, if Boof came home, and because he is physically bigger than me, asked me to do something where I felt I would be harmed or unloved if I said no. That’s not really cooperation, that is control. If I notice that Boof is folding laundry and I want to join him, then I am freely entering into that experience. If he asks, and I say no, and it is just as loving, then I am truly free. So, why should a different set of rules apply to children?
In what ways do I try to control others, namely Potamus? When I say things like “lets go outside” and then pick him up without his choice to freely follow me, I guess, would be one way. Or putting food on his plate and expecting him to eat it (though this is something I try not to do). In fact, in a way, lately, we’ve been trying to help Potamus communicate his needs/desires about food, by picking him up and walking him around the kitchen to point to what he wants. While this won’t be something we can do forever, and I certainly am not excited about the prospect of making different meals each night or catering to my kid’s every whim. Of course, that takes it to an extreme, but I notice, the story in my head, about being controlled BY my child…and that in order to combat that I need to control HIM. Whoa, that’s a little tidbit of insight from my brain!
Thoughts on control/autonomy/respect?