Your children DO NOT learn how to have self-control from being controlled.
They learn self-control as a result of practicing self-control.
It can be a bit messy, but it’s the only way.
When my kids were little I was a control freak.
I should have gotten the message that controlling my kids wasn’t an option when I tried to feed my first baby food.
My oldest wasn’t a fan.
He spit it out, refused to open his mouth, and tried to push me away.
I should have gotten the message.
>> You can’t control your kids. <<
I didn’t want to see it.
I wanted to be a good mom which meant I needed my kids to do what I asked.
I was afraid of what would happen if I lost control.
Eight years into parenting I was still trying to control my kids.
Trying to get them to do what I thought they should do.
I had six kids. The oldest was eight. It wasn’t working.
My house was nuts.
Bedtime brought out the worst in all of us.
I approached every night with dread, hoping it would go better than last night.
It never did.
I’d white-knuckle it as I read the kids a story.
Determined to get a story in every night.
I HAD to read to them because reading boosted their IQs, immune system, sense of well-being, and our relationship.
I’m sure my yelling at them to be quiet so I could read was great for our relationship.
I wasn’t present.
I was worried about how crazy they’d get once the story was over.
I snapped at anyone who made noise.
I wanted bedtime to be over already.
I wanted some quiet time but knew it wouldn’t happen.
I prayed it would go smoother than yesterday.
It never did.
I was missing the point.
I robotically read, sang them a song, gave them a kiss, and turned off the light.
As I walked out of the room I firmly reminded them I didn’t want to see them until morning.
Five minutes later they’d come out.
I was a wreck. I was upset. I was angry.
I couldn’t control them, and it was driving me crazy.
Why couldn’t they have a little self-control?
What was I missing?
I finally surrendered and realized I wasn’t giving the kids a chance to develop self-control when I was micromanaging them at every turn.
Releasing the need to control the kids was a slow and powerful process.
I had to face the reality.
I’d created this, by not giving them a chance to practice self-control.
So I looked at the situation head-on and started asking myself some questions.
Where you are okay with letting them fail big time as they practice self-control?
In what areas can you give them space and decision-making power?
What’s preventing you from trusting their inner wisdom and seeing what happens?
How can you set them up for success?
How can you be more present?
What will you do when they fail?
The process totally changed our bedtime experience.
I decided to give up my need to make sure they got to sleep at 8 p.m.
I invited them to storytime instead of forcing them to attend storytime.
If they didn’t come they had a few other choices to keep them busy.
I still had a time when lights went off (my four oldest kids were 8, 6, 4, 3 at the time), but didn’t nag at them if they were laughing and chatting.
I put my energy towards how I showed up instead of on how they showed up.
I reminded myself over and over that I actually couldn’t control my kids.
Within the context of bedtime, I let them practice self-control.
It was a win-win.
Bedtime turned around and became one of our favorite times of the day.
The only way you get better at something is by doing it.
The muscle of self-control is strengthened when you get a chance to practice self-control.
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