More often than not parents impose their own choices on their children without stopping to check what the child wants using the basic premise that 'Mum (or Dad) knows best!' A pattern that has been prevalent for generations that seemingly stems from the age-old deep-rooted belief that the parent knows best for the child, but could be based on the simple premise that the number of woollen garments on a child is directly proportional to how cold the mother is feeling!
This applies to all walks of one's life, starting from the simplest of things like what should the child wear, what & when should s/he eat, who should s/he be friends with and to larger life-altering decisions like which college to enroll to, what subjects should the child take up, which profession should s/he choose, whom should s/he marry, to even how many kids should s/he have and when their kids should have kids!
Often these are reflections of the parents' unfulfilled desires that they would like to see vicariously being realized through the lives of their children!
Such action on behalf of parents could lead to two likely consequences viz.:
1. The child becomes too dependent on others and is unable to trust his/her own judgment in making sound decisions
2. The child becomes rebellious and ends up making the choices that are detrimental to his/her well-being just to prove that his/her parents were wrong
In either case, the child feels disempowered, defeated & dejected for all the wrong reasons. As a result the consequences could be detrimental for the progress and well-being of the child in the long run.
What parents conveniently forget is the 'Power of Choice'.
Let's illustrate this with a simple example which all parents can try simulating with their kids as young as 3-4 years. It's always advisable to start early and the earlier you start, the better it is!
Let's consider how a parent can help a child decide on what to wear if he or she thinks it is cold outside.
"Mom! I'm going out to play cricket with my friends!"
"OK! What's the weather like outside?"
" I guess the weather is pleasant."
"Is it more hot or cold?"
"I think it is cold."
" What will you do if you feel that it is too cold?"
"Well! In that case I can come back in and wear my woollen jacket."
Great! Depending on the weather outside, you can decide if you want to wear woollens, a jacket, a cap, socks, mittens and a muffler perhaps?
By shifting the choice the Mum allows the child decide what he wants to wear. As a result, s/he prepared to take responsibility for and face the likely consequences of his/her decision. For e.g. if the child decides to go out without a cap & socks and catches a cold thereafter, what did s/he learn from it and what will s/he decide to do about similar situations in future.
Parents must remember to use the 'Power of Choice'.. If parents, instead of enforcing their decisions on their children allow them to make informed choices, then children will become more aware of the consequences of those choices and will be able to easily relate the choice made with the likely consequence; quite early in their lives. This creates a greater sense of responsibility within children; hence they will become more mindful of the choices that they are making to ensure they do not get to bear the brunt of the not-so-pleasant consequences of the wrong choices that they have made.
By following this path the parent acts as a Coach and helps the child through the decision making process without actually deciding on their behalf or telling them what to do. It's important that the parent helps the child reflect on the consequences of his/her decisions to help him/her understand the impact of such a consequence and the learning acquired from it. That is when a Parent transcends into a Coach!
The process of Coaching requires patience and practice, but over time, with the right guidance from parents, children WILL eventually figure out the 'best' choices for themselves. Coaching is a life-skill which helps the coachee uncover his latent potential and empowers him to find his/her own answers.
Skillful parenting, much like anything else, calls for wisdom and Coaching is the art of applying that wisdom to transform reality to one's liking!