As parents we want our kids to fit into cultural mores that we think is appropriate. Many of us feel threatened when our children fail to comply with our sense of what is the best. So what do we do? We brow-beat them into submission till eventually, we have molded them into caricatures of their true selves. We strip them of their uniqueness, their drive, their adventurousness and self-preservation instincts.
Development of independence
Around age two a child first becomes aware of himself as an autonomous being. The terrible twos as it is usually known as is the period when a child will begin asserting independence, testing boundaries and learning how to communicate feelings and desires. He wants things his way and it becomes a battle at times for a parent trying to understand and work with what seems like unending tantrums. Patience and fortitude are crucial for negotiating this developmental phase. For us parents, this is the time when our skills of negotiation and self-restraint are tested. We have to skillfully manage and encourage a child’s innate need to become an independent, resourceful and innovative human being. We need to give them plenty of leeway to explore, but at the same time unobtrusively know when to reign him in.
Crucial areas of autonomy
When a child is being forced to hug (or be hugged by) people at a young age, we’re instilling the message that a person’s body is not their own body. Forcing a child to ignore feelings that make him uncomfortable affects his ability to respond to dangerous situations. He becomes a fair target for bullies, rapists, pedophiles and any of the evil people waiting to take advantage. However, if a child from an early age knows he has a choice where his body is concerned thus has no problem defending his boundaries. He does not have to just accept, please or worry about offending anyone. Learning to listen to one’s body and protect it is one of the most important survival skills for anyone.
Developmental psychologist Andrea Bastiani Archibald explains the importance of this “The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children, but the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older. We know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.”
Most parents get panicky if their child misses one meal. They get upset if their kid does not want to eat veggies and so-called healthy foods. And so mealtimes become a battle of wills where eventually a child is forced to eat foods they just don’t want. The long-term outcome is food becomes a source of stress which could eventually lead to eating disorders i.e overeating or anorexia. Forced eating disrupts normal eating behavior, making children vulnerable to unhealthy food habits that last a lifetime. Remember kids will eat when they are hungry and even if they skip a meal, they will eventually eat when they are hungry. Don’t keep food items which you don’t want them to eat around the house. If you don’t want them to eat something see that you yourself are not indulging in unhealthy eating practices. Children usually imitate what they observe. Ultimately, their natural body system will allow them to make healthy food choices.
A child should be given the option of sharing his things or not. He should be allowed to decide with whom he wants to share and whom he does not want to share with. Because as adults that’s how the way the world works. We don’t just let anyone take our precious jewelry or clothes so why should a child be expected to be generous when he is not ready or maybe does not like or trust someone. Allowing your child the choice to refuse giving something is not fostering selfishness in the longterm. By forcing a child to share you are turning them into docile dummies who don’t know how to stand up and protect their personal belongings and spaces. Eventually, kids do learn to share, barter and negotiate what they want and how to survive in this world or give and take. By forcing them to share we deny them the essential skill of good judgment and setting of boundaries.
Some kids love water while some don’t, some love football while some don’t. One should not insist that a child joins the crowd and play what everyone is playing. Give him the space to decide if he wants to try something else. Forcing a child to compete in a sport they dislike, does nothing for his self-esteem. They become moody and totally reject any physical activity. Sport becomes a source of stress and anxiety. Avoid forcing your child to do something he dislikes, he will end up resenting you and hating his life. Instead, expose your child to different activities and give him the space to pursue his own natural interest. Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps’ mom cautions parents, ‘Don’t push’ kids into sports.” Children have to do what they enjoy. You have to let your kids find what’s best for them and what their own niche is.”
The Dangers Of Being Too Agreeable – Jordan Peterson
When you force your child into doing things he does not want to do you are turning him into a docile, compliant and spineless creature. Dr. Jordan Peterson, the currently popular psychologist has extrapolated that being agreeable and obedient is not good for one’s mental well-being, it also hinders your child’s success in the world. Don’t push your child, provide guidance, encouragement and the space to become his own person. Someone who can navigate life confidently.
Noted poet Khalil Gibran has this advice for parents, You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.”
Nurture your child’s uniqueness by positive encouragement do not kill his spirit by forcing him into submission.