Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Make the Choice NOT to Choose for Your Child

Why we need to encourage children to choose their own path, and even make their own mistakes!

We need to encourage children to choose their own path, and even make their own mistakes!

As a mom, I haven’t always made good choices parenting my children. I’ve sometimes been somewhat of a helicopter mom, dictating to my children rather than allowing them to make their own choices. Since I was the adult, I knew what was best for them.

However, I was doing more harm than good. Over the past couple of months, I was challenged to examine whether my way was still working for my children. My boys were teenagers and no longer young children. The way I handled things was no longer working for them. It was time to tweak my parenting methods.

This past year my son Jared, a freshman, attended a local university. This was not his top choice. His plan was to get the heck out of Cincinnati, and that’s just what he sought for his sophomore year, a transfer to a new school. Despite my pleas to stay, citing all of the benefits for remaining there (incredible co-op programs and greater chances of acquiring a job right out of college, giving him a leg up on the competition of fellow graduates from other universities), he was determined to attend Ohio State University (OSU), several hours away. My initial reaction was to rebut his reasons for transferring and to convince him that he was making a bad decision. I even threatened to withhold his tuition if he chose to attend OSU.

My ah-ha moment occurred when I experienced flashbacks of my dad telling me what was best for me and discouraging me from pursuing my dreams. What I heard when my dad told me these things was that I shouldn’t trust myself because he didn’t think I made good choices. I didn’t attend the right college, didn’t choose the right major or pursue a lucrative career path.

I always remembered feeling angry with him and rebelling because how dare he tell me what to do. I knew what was best for me and it was my life, not his. I needed to make my own choices and learn from my mistakes.

After my conversation with Jared, I had to take a hard look in the mirror to see who was reflected back—my father or myself. It occurred to me that I was doing the same thing to my son that my father did to me. I didn’t want to squelch his dreams. Jared showed me he could make good decisions when he took the initiative to research OSU’s mechanical engineering program and studied hard by achieving a 3.0 GPA his freshman year.

Now that I am a parent, I understand that my dad was trying to guide me from avoiding life’s pitfalls. What I needed from him was encouragement to make my own mistakes and to learn from them. Growing up is all about failing and learning from experiences while receiving guidance from parents. I don’t want my boys to grow into adulthood dealing with the same issues as me. I have to allow my boys to make choices even if I disagree with them.

And while I’m not sure how Jared’s decision will impact his future, what I do know is that he will be happier and freer knowing that he made this decision on his own.

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