The Autonomy of a Child
There are a few things that I think can completely rearrange the dynamic of your entire family: aggression (obviously), manipulation, passivity, inconsistency, and expecting instant gratification. This is because your child is not a computer, or a robot. Thinking that you should be able to input information and then have them immediately output the action every time is ludicrous, and it’s just asking for trouble. I swear children are on a mission to remind you, and the world, that they are autonomous tiny humans and not programmable devices.
While our children are on their mission to prove their autonomy, parents are on a mission to teach their child morality and ethics. Both of these endeavors will be occurring at the same time and it is our job, as parents, to ensure that our paths do not collide. Of course, this doesn’t mean that our paths won’t ever come to a crossroad but we should never be competing to proceed down one road or the other. While we can absolutely coexist, you can see how our two opposing missions could easily lead to chronic conflict.
More than likely, we were not taught to be patient with children. This means that we are already well behind where we should be when it comes to dealing with an autonomous child. We will expect our child to do things faster and with more accuracy than they are capable. It’s our job to make sure that we keep an eye on our ever increasing expectations to ensure they don’t float out of the reach of our children.
Children are sponges that absorb everything. They retain a significant amount of what they absorb but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are ready to accept all of that information. This is why children act out the family dynamic quite frequently when they are playing with siblings or friends, but they do not follow the rules inherently. If you listen when they are playing they will not repeat the conversation you had early per se, but they will usually incorporate some of the house rules. I believe they are doing this to determine for themselves if they agree with what we say is true. I mean, who are we to be believed right? If we are honest, we really don’t know what we are doing and our kids, they definitely know that. I think this is great because theories on rules, morality, and ethics should not be accepted prior to extensive research and thought.
When you treat your child as though they can be programmed, you are actually saying “I can manipulate you into doing what I want you to do.” This is not the right message to repeatedly be sending to your child. Using manipulation as a form of communication is extremely unhealthy. When you practice manipulation, you practice betrayal. Each time you betray someone, you loose their trust, their faith in you, and a piece of their heart. Repetitive betrayal is one of the fastest ways to destroy a relationship. So, not only are you harming the integrity of your relationship with your child but you are also setting your child up to potentially destroy future relationships.
As a peaceful parent our goal should be to search for the balance between guiding our child and letting them learn on their own. A lot of times letting them learn on their own means that we have to let them fail, let them struggle, let them make a wrong turn and find their way back to the right path. While watching this may give you the brief feeling of being a bad, or cold hearted parent, the truth is quite the opposite. Carrying your child through life means removing their autonomy. Being free does not only mean free to do the fascinating things that we love but also to do the difficult things that result in knowledge and, hopefully, character.