Let Them Be Awesome! | Raising Kids Without Fear
“Stop playing with that stick! You’ll poke an eye out!” “Don’t climb on the truck. It’s dangerous!” “Don’t get your dress dirty.” “You can’t wear Princess dresses all day. They are for dress up only!”
Those are all of the things I thought to say to my daughter while I was taking this photo. But I didn’t say them. Not a single one.
How much of a child’s day is filled with the words; “DON’T, CAN’T, STOP” and “NO”? How many times a day do we bark orders at our children? Sometimes I wonder if I’m a mom or a drill sergeant.
Honestly, I’m exhausted of fighting a losing battle with the natural curiosity, and adventurous spirit, that lives within my daughter. That lives within all children. The thing is: I remember being like this. I remember trying to climb over the fence in my back yard (to play in the forest behind my house) and hearing the pleas of my parents; “Don’t climb that fence!” “There are ticks in that forest, you can’t go in there!”
These warnings are valid though, aren’t they? Climbing a fence can lead to a broken arm (or a scratched stomach…which I did several times), and it would totally suck to get bitten by a deer tick and end up with Lyme’s disease. So, where do we draw the line here? How do we allow our children to explore (and be their awesome-selves), while also making sure that they don’t get hurt or worse?
Well, that’s for all of us parents to decide individually. I don’t know your child. I don’t know what their strengths and weaknesses are. I don’t know how well they balance, or if they have confidence in jumping from great heights. I don’t know what your personal history is with anxiety disorder or stress. I don’t know what your childhood was like (or how were conditioned to think). I don’t know you. So, how could I offer blanket advice to you? I can’t.
What I can say is this: You know. You know in your heart if you are being overly protective (or not protective enough). You know if your own stress or anxieties are preventing you from allowing your children to explore their surroundings. You can feel it.
When I’m around a group of relaxed parents I feel like the “Helicopter Mom.” I’m always chasing my daughter, stressing out when she climbs too high in a tall tree, stoping her from swimming too deep in the ocean, and making sure she always has a helmet on when she’s riding a bike.
On the flip side, when I’m around a different group of parents, who are not-so relaxed, I end up feeling like the “too laid back ‘Free-Range Mom’” that doesn’t watch her child closely enough. The one that allows my child to jump on the couch, climb on the car, walk barefoot in rocks, make mud pies, tantrum while I hold her, and run down the side walk without holding my hand.
To be honest I hate these labels; “Helicopter Mom”, and “Free-Range Mom.” How have these labels helped us? They haven’t. They only cause more divide. So, what if we just stop using them? What if we decide that we are all simply mothers trying to do what is best for our children? What if saw one another as “an awesome Mama doing her best”?
Dig deep and find out if YOU are OK with the way you parent. Is your child OK with the way you parent? Will your child grow up feeling: confident, safe, secure, self-independent, free, capable, worthy, loved, and understand boundaries?
If we want our children to feel these things we need to find balance in allowing them to discover (and test) their skills, and the world around them. We have to let them get hurt, and teach them how to get back up. We need to show them how to fix their problems. We need to let them be, and to learn from natural consequences…while simultaneously keeping our children alive. We need to be an anchor for them. We need to be the home they can return to when they need us. We have to do all of this while also setting safety rules that keep them safe.
All of this takes practice, patience, and it isn’t always easy. It’s certainly not easy for me.
It’s a balancing act (much like my daughter is doing in the first photo).
If children are overly controlled they could end up feeling insecure, incapable, dependent, stuck, and unworthy. There’s also a chance that they could develop anxiety disorder (or depression) as adults. Living in a world that we were never allowed to explore can feel scary. If the subconscious could speak it might say;
“If my parents wouldn’t let me explore the world (because the world is dangerous), it must be super scary. I don’t know how to navigate this world. I don’t know what to do or how to survive. There’s too much unknown and unexplored. The unknown is scary. I can’t survive on my own.” This is a really scary realization.
On the flip side, if we don’t monitor them enough we could end up experiencing a serious accident or trauma. We could also give them a sense that there are no limits in life (which isn’t the ultimate truth). Life has limits. We have to respect others, obey safety rules (and laws), fulfill our responsibilities, and many other worldly human things.
Allowing children to explore while also setting boundaries is key.
Because I know that telling you to set boundaries is not enough to help you actually do it; I am offering some guidance here. I am going to give a brief example of how to set boundaries and introduce you to the idea of “Control Dramas.” Are you ready?
Have you ever heard of “Control Dramas”? No? Well, even if you haven’t heard of it you’ve for sure experienced it! All of us have a way in which we try to control people (its all subconscious of course!)
There are four Control Dramas, and they are: Intimidator (threatening), Interragator (questioning), Aloof (ignoring), and Poor Me (getting sympathy). When we were children we learned which Control Drama suits us best. (For more info on Control Dramas go here!)
As children grow they will test out these dramas when trying to control a situation. As parents, when we set a boundary our children will test the limit using these manipulations of control.
Here’s an example of setting a boundary (with control dramas):
“Yes, you’re allowed to climb that tree, but only to this branch. It’s important that you listen to this rule so that I can keep you safe. If you climb too high I can’t help you get back down. If you fall from way up there you could get hurt. I know you are a great climber, but accidents happen.”
After setting a boundary our children will most likely challenge us on it (in this case by trying to climb higher). It’s important to enforce the boundary. If they push the boundary we must address it.
“I see you are climbing up too high, come back down to this branch. If you don’t follow this rule you won’t be allowed to climb this tree.”
The child will probably follow this with a type of control drama (in order to get what they want). Usually the first drama that plays out is the “Poor Me” drama. —> “But Mama, I have to do this. Please! You never let me do this.” (whines).
Continue to enforce the boundary by saying something like; “No, this is the rule. You are too high. Come back down to this branch.”
This will bring the child to the next control drama which is usually the “Intimidator” drama. —> “YOU HAVE TO LET ME CLIMB! I’M A BIG KID! YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!” (yelling).
If you continue to calmly enforcing the boundary (by repeating the above) the child will then go to the “Interrogator” control drama and say something like —> “Why do you always tell me what to do? Why did you let Timmy climb high? What if I just climb a little bit higher?”
Once you reached this point you will probably be exhausted, but there is still one more control drama that plays out here, it’s the “Aloof” control drama —> “Fine, I don’t care anyway. I will just sit right here on this branch then.”
“No, this is the rule. You are too high. Come back down to this branch.”
Usually by this point the child has exhausted all of the controls dramas and they will listen to the boundary (in this instance climb back down.) Children are all unique and will change which control drama they use (and in which order). The important thing is to keep enforcing a “No” without giving in throughout all of these dramas.
Tip: Before you use the word “No” make sure that the answer is an absolute “No”. If you are willing to make a deal be sure to avoid using the word “No”. For example: You were planning to make a casserole for dinner and your child asks for pasta. Before you respond “No” think about if this is an absolute “No”. Are you willing to bend on this? Are you willing to make pasta instead? If you are then don’t use the word “No”, and instead make a compromise. If you aren’t willing to make pasta then use the word “No” and enforce it.
This will make it easier for you down the line. Once you begin to enforce your “No”s your child will understand that “No” means “No” and eventually give up on trying to manipulate the situation.
Be sure to also acknowledge the good in your child.
“Thank you so much for listening to the rule. I know this was hard for you. It means a lot to me that you respected me.”
Whew, are you ready to do this a hundred times a day? No? Me neither. None of us are perfect, and there are days that will be messy. We will win some…and learn some. Shoot for progress, not perfection.
It’s a huge challenge to parent a child when we are dealing with our own insecurities and fears. Facing what haunts us is a challenging task but it will make us a better person (and parent) if we do it. Whenever you are ready I encourage you to dig deep and heal whatever you feel is holding you back.
Remember you are awesome too! And, you and your child can be awesome together!
If this resonates with you and you would like to parent gently or heal your own inner child, please check out my videos on this topic on my YouTube Channel.
I hope this post was helpful to you, if it was please share it on your various social media outlets. You can find me on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. Feel free to check out my ebooks. And, have a beautiful day beautiful mamas!