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.