Please, let your kids make mistakes.
Do not confuse letting your kids make their own decisions with the notion that you are “letting them win” or “failing to be a parent.”
I have been publicly judged for allowing my kids to make their own choices. Frankly, I think it’s a ridiculous notion that we should dictate a child’s every move without giving them any autonomy.
My kids – 3 and 6 – have arrived at the stage where they want to argue about, well, everything I tell them to do.
They don’t want to put down the toy to come to dinner. They don’t want to eat their vegetables. They don’t want to brush their teeth before bed.
Spending time with family, being healthy, good hygiene: These are non-negotiable. This is where I put my foot down, remind them I’m the boss and force them to do what I’m telling them they have to do.
But, as parenting often goes, I don’t take that stance on everything. Sometimes, when my kids disagree with me, I allow them to make their own decisions, even if it goes against my wishes.
This is where it seems there is a divide in modern-day parenting. There are two extremes: On the one side, you have parents who lay down the law, no questions asked. On the other, there are parents who let their kids do whatever they want.
And then there are those of us in the middle who realize that parenting is usually a gray area because living in black-and-white is boring, impractical and mostly impossible.
I believe in letting my kids make mistakes. I believe in allowing them to make their own decisions, because I know they are going to have to deal with the consequences. They are both starting to understand that choices come with responsibility, and that is something you only learn if you experience it.
For example, we live in a place that gets cold in the winter. We will have days with freezing temperatures. My kids will argue that they do not need to put on their jacket to walk from the garage to the car, and then from the car to the grocery store.
I will tell them that they will be cold, and they will regret not wearing the coat.
They will tell me that no, they will not.
So, I let them own that decision. I know they will, in fact, wish they had listened to me. More importantly, I know that I’m not putting them in any real danger by allowing them to make this choice on their own because no one in the history of the world has ever died from being in 30-degree weather for two minutes.
My choice to let my kids choose is not, as some say, “letting the child win” or “failing to be a parent.”
This is teaching my child to be ready for the real world. This is called “parenting.”
In the real world, they won’t always have someone telling them what to do. In the real world, they will have to weigh their options, consider the possible outcomes, and make a choice.
Frustrating though it may be, I think, in some situations, it’s healthy for kids to (respectfully) question us when we tell them what to do. It isn’t necessarily because they don’t respect us. It’s because are still learning to understand logic. That part of their brain takes decades to develop. They may not understand, “Put on a coat because I said so” or “Put on a coat because it’s cold outside.” They WILL understand, “I don’t have a coat on, and now I’m freezing.”
And guess what? They will wear the damn coat next time.
I believe in letting my kids make mistakes.
No, I won’t let them play with knives or experiment with hard drugs while watching “Sesame Street.” I won’t let them do anything that could actually bring them harm.
But will I let them make the wrong choices sometimes so they learn a lesson? You bet. Some of the hardest and best lessons I have learned came from my total screw-ups. I had to go through that to understand just how wrong my decisions were. It’s called personal growth, and I highly recommend it.