In my mind, one of the most important things we need to do for our children is to teach them how to govern themselves.
We want them to be independent and know how to make decisions that will bless their lives. There sure are a lot of skills they need to learn (and be taught) for that to happen!
So I’m a big believer in what Nicholeen Peck (founder of Teaching Self Government) calls “pre-teaching.”
One thing that is very important to teach children is how to express their own opinion without being disagreeable, or controlling. This is important, because a child who knows how to do this will be more more able to resist “negative” peer pressure. They will understand that opinions should be valued and honored, and that anything less than that is not a healthy relationship.
Make up a common scenario to use with your child. You can use the “what would you do if” approach, or you can use the “scripted” approach. We’ll use both approaches here.
(In the scripted approach, you actually have written out a dialogue, and you play the part of one person,and the child plays the part of the second person. You both read the dialogue, so it doesn’t matter who plays which part. Encourage exaggerated drama - it makes it fun. Laugh a lot.)
Here’s an example of a script:
Beth: Let’s do something today.
Amy: Sounds fun!
Beth: What would you like to do?
Amy: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t care.
Beth: Well, I don’t care either.
Amy: No, you choose.
Beth: Oh, I really don’t care. Anything is fine.
…………………..On to the discussion points. Talk about these things. (It is sometimes fun to have the discussion questions written up beforehand too, and cut into strips. Put them in a jar, and take turns picking out a question. Occasionally give treats for answers! (My kids would do a lot of talking for 2 Skittles - especially if they got to choose the color!)
If discussion doesn’t come easily, then use the “what if” approach to do some more situational pre-teaching.
Possible ideas might include a conversation where Susan says, “Do you want to suggest one today, and next time I can choose?” Or……………..”What kind of movie would you prefer - a Disney one, or a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie?”
What you want to bring out in this pre-teaching is that everyone feels comfortable if they have a chance to express their opinion. It builds trust that the other person will listen to you, and that they care about what you think. No one is bossy, and no one is “unequal” in this kind of relationship. When you do NOT express your opinion, it actually sends a negative message. It sends a message that you are not confident in yourself, and that you do not consider yourself “equal” to the other person. (Be sure they understand that occasionally, we really do not have an opinion. That is fine. But if we never, ever have an opinion, that is going to send the wrong message.)
You might want to expand this idea and role play several different scenarios. If you’re having fun, you can do this in one setting - but remember that it’s better to do short, quick, fun pre-teaching, and do it regularly, often, and at random moments, than it is to spend an hour beating a topic to death. The “kill” point should be sooner, rather than too late. If it becomes a lecture, you’re not pre-teaching, you’re lecturing!
Last night I finished teaching a class series called “What to Teach Your Children About Emotions.” During the class, I asked the parents, “What do you really want for your children, in terms of being able to help them become confident, capable adults?” Here’s one parent’s reply.
TOTALLY agreed. That is the goal. That is really what true “self government” is all about anyway.
The trick, though, is how we plan to help our children reach that goal.
There are many “pro” and “con” arguments for each of the above situations.. Obviously we want our children to have an active voice in their learning and growth. Obviously we want them to make their own decisions. But - just as obviously - parents need to have an important role in helping them learn to make decisions with wisdom, and that takes intentional parenting and support.
I strongly, strongly believe that teaching our children to understand emotions will help them develop and trust their own internal guidance system. This is NOT simply understanding that they have feelings, and letting their feelings run the show. This is a very important, directly taught, skill. Understanding emotions is critical, and it is very different from just “feeling” and making decisions based on feelings alone.
I strongly believe that when we think about how to help our children learn to be independent and make their own decisions, we should think about how to help our children learn the actual “rules” of being independent.
We would never let our children at age 10 get in our car, put it in reverse, and drive the car away. We would tell them that there are certain things that they are not allowed to do, no questions asked, until they are “of age.”
Even when they are “of age,” there are pretty strict qualifying things we would make our children do in order to earn the privilege of obtaining a driver’s license.
We would never let them drive if they did not completely understand the rules of the road. We would consider that foolish and dangerous. We would also not let our children drive if we could not be certain that they were going to obey those rules. Too much is at risk. We do not question whether those rules are good or bad. They are rules that we know are put there for our safety and protection. Our children must understand that too, or we are not going to let them drive.
There are “rules” that govern our social, mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual health. Those rules are called “principles.” In order to navigate safely through life, we have to understand those principles. Parents have to have a role in guiding those experiences (hence the “driver’s education course, and the 60 hours of driving with a licensed driver in the car). Yes, a child, in order to be fully able to govern himself, must make choices, and must gain experience, but he must also be guided and protected in that process.
What the child really needs to understand are principles relating to our emotions.
There are two key concepts to understand.
When our children are able to understand their own emotions, they will know how to use their inner guidance system effectively. They will then be able to use their emotions to create peace.
When my child asks to go see a movie that has a rating or content that I do not agree with, I am not going to say, “Yes, go see it. Come home, tell me how you feel about it, and we’ll see if you think watching movies like that is good for you.
Read more blog posts here.
Stressed? Go out and PLAY.
This is a very interesting article about the value of play. This really does apply to emotional health. Our children do not have enough time to play -- too many rigid schedules, and things like that. Does anyone recognize that as stress?
Becoming a Santa!
This is the coolest article about a mom who had a brilliant idea. When her son became old enough to question Santa, this is what she did……………..
Numerous studies have shown that children today are experiencing a great deal of anxiety and stress. What we can’t seem to agree on is exactly what causes that.
Our children may not have time for us to figure out who or what is to blame. So let’s move on.
As parents, we can influence our children by how we address certain issues. It’s called “reframing.” What it means is that we show the child how to look differently at a situation, such as helping them see a new, more positive view of themselves, for example.
It’s easy to become discouraged sometimes, and wonder whether or not our efforts as a parent are really making a difference.
So it’s nice to read articles like this one that talk about just what kind of powerful influence parents have on their children.
A Family Motto
What’s that, anyway?
The dictionary definition of motto:
A short sentence or phrase that expresses a rule guiding behavior
One of my favorite bloggers is Sarah Mackenzie. She started a movement that she calls the “Read-aloud Revival.” I love to read, and her book recommendations and blog posts are wonderful.
A blog post that I read this morning is called “How to Enjoy Homeschooling, Just Because We Can.” Now, I homeschool my kids, and the title immediately hooked me. But - this post does not apply only to homeschoolers.