One of my clients, when asked what was more important to her, her child’s happiness or health food, said this. “Health food is not more important to me than my children’s happiness. It’s not either/or. The health of my children is very important to me, but so is their happiness. I would like to find a way to promote their health without sacrificing their happiness and vice versa.”
I responded by explaining that when we are trying to achieve two goals there will be times when a decision makes one of the goals a priority. When conventional parents are faced with deciding between happiness and another goal more often than not the goal of children’s happiness becomes secondary ‘for their own good’. We are, in fact, actually encouraged that we are doing a good parenting job if our kids occasionally express that they hate us and we upset them at times. I remember a time not so long ago that I got angry because my son spilled juice on the carpet and he said, “It seems like you care more about the rug than you do me.” Of course in the overall scheme of things he was wrong, but in that moment he was right. The fact he was upset was less important to me than my need to not have a dirty rug. Oops.
With conventional parenting that happens all the time. It’s pretty much taken for granted that what kids want is secondary to what parents are trying to achieve, either for themselves or for the ‘sake of their children’. Of course, when you are in the middle of conventional parenting it doesn’t feel that way. As I know only too well, it feels like you are spending your life giving to your kids – cooking meals, cleaning clothes, correcting behaviour and so on. But as a kid, conventional parenting feels very, very selfish. Lots of ‘don’t do that, stop that, no you can’t, not now, when I say so, not today, maybe later….’
They feel that the things we’re running around doing or buying are more important than they are because the things they ask of us get put low on our list of priorities. So often what they want and what we want for them or for us becomes a conflict – like counting the amount of cookies they can have, or leaving the park to run an errand, or saying no to a toy (when we have just purchased wine and make-up for ourselves!). So, in the case of promoting healthy eating, to our child the message is going to seem more important than the delight they get from eating the cookies. Promoting healthy eating can be achieved peacefully without that conflict as there’s so much time throughout the day to model what *we* believe to be healthy eating that we don’t need to steal a moment of their happiness to give them “an important service announcement”.
Sure you can share with your kids what you believe about anything; violence, diets, green issues, technology, money, sport, McDonalds –whatever! But our children aren’t us. We can advise, influence, persuade, but if we limit, control, manipulate and restrict them then they are far less likely to listen to us, and it will destroy our relationship fast. Everyone has a lifestyle, and beliefs, and opinions, but putting those first, ahead of your relationship with your children, will damage your connection. If your real child starts to become more important than your vision of your child, life becomes easier and waaaay more peaceful. – Chaley.