This is your call: empowering our kids

“I’m crazy about you. And this is your call.”

Dr. William Stixrud

I’ve been listening to so many podcasts and masterclasses and realized they all have the same themes:

  • I can only control myself, not others
  • I have the power to control my reactions, even though it is difficult
  • The more I practice responding the way I want, the easier it becomes
  • Relationships are everything — the one with myself being the most important

It’s funny that I can read the same book or listen to the same podcast episode multiple times and take away something new each time. I read The Self Driven Child a while back and loved it. This week, I listened to one of the authors, Dr. William Stixrud talk about the book.

Control and stress

He reminded me that “the most stressful thing you can experience is a low sense of control.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. If this is true for me, this means it is also true for my kids. Hello power struggles!

This is why Dr. Stixrud recommends viewing yourself as a consultant for your children. Instead of trying to control them, try viewing yourself as a dependable resource. This shift has changed everything for me. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have started to view my kids differently. The majority of the time, I was trying to control them. Now, I see them more as humans with needs and feelings and opinions.

If you have ever tried to potty train a child, you will know that you absolutely cannot make another human use the bathroom. There is no amount of dancing, cheering, yelling, or bribing that can make another person poop in a toilet.

More importantly, if I am controlling them, they are not controlling themselves. This is the antithesis of what I want! By trying to take control of them, I am sending them all the wrong messages:

  • I am going to take control because I don’t trust that you can
  • You NEED me to help you
  • You’re not capable

Dr. Stixrud says to shift the energy from ‘I’m controlling you’ to ‘I’m here to help you.’ At times this feels scary as I LIKE being in control. But the more I embrace this mindset, I realize it is a total win win. I feel much calmer and less stressed and my kids feel more empowered. Which in turn is leading to stronger relationships with myself AND my kids.

Of course I take their ages into account. I’m not letting my 2 year old decide what time she wants to go to bed or eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My job is to provide boundaries that keep them safe and healthy. However, whenever possible, I am shifting my mindset and viewing my role differently.

Mistakes will happen

Are they always going to make great choices? Of course not. And neither do I throughout each day. Whether I leave Gatorade out that Grace will inevitably drink and spill everywhere or forget to fill up the dog’s water bowl, I am constantly making mistakes (Sorry Hank). As a result of those mistakes, I learn and grow. See the connection? Our kids are going to make tons of mistakes as well and learn from them along the way. But only if we let them.

In closing, the following is a suggestion Dr. Stixrud gave during the masterclass. He said that the best thing to say to your young kids is:

I’m crazy about you. And this is your call.

For comparison the best thing you can say to your older kids is:

I’m crazy about you. And I have confidence in your ability to make decisions and learn from your mistakes.

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