Parenting is exhausting, right Mom? I know it’s what we signed up for, but still—it’s a lot. Not only are we responsible for meeting our kids’ basic needs, but we also bear the weight of nurturing them and cultivating their independence. That’s a pretty big deal, so we often find ourselves making most (and sometimes all) of the decisions in their lives. But there are some decisions you shouldn’t make for your kids.
Some of the choices we make for them affect more than just that singular moment in time. They may send a bigger message that undermines our children’s own ability to reason, discern, and assert themselves. So here are 4 decisions you shouldn’t make for your kids.
1. How Much to Eat
This isn’t about what to eat. Of course, we need to make sure our kids are eating balanced meals and not downing Poptarts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What we shouldn’t do is dictate how much they eat. We should let our children decide how hungry they are and let them eat as much or as little as they need. This is tricky because kids and mealtime decisions don’t always revolve around hunger, and we do need to step in when there is emotional eating.
But when we tell them they have to eat regardless of hunger, we teach them to ignore the signals their brains send that tell them they’re full. And if they are hungry and we say they need to stop, we could send the message that food is bad. Our goal should be to teach them to listen to themselves—their conscience, instinct, and even their tummy.
2. Who to Hug
I know many parents, myself included, often throw around the “go give hugs” phrase at the end of a visit with family or friends. And sometimes it’s OK to make your kid hug somebody, like when Grandma wants a hug but your kid resists because he’d rather keep playing his video game. But our children should never feel forced to give hugs or kisses to anyone.
When we make our kids show affection to people, we inadvertently send a message that they have to touch or be touched by whoever asks them for that—conditions in which abuse can occur. Let them choose who they wish to hug or kiss. We also may have to do some policing with people who nudge our children to be affectionate.
3. What to Play With
Don’t worry. I’m not advocating for letting them play with matches. I just mean we should let our children choose what toys to play with or what books to read and avoid pushing certain activities simply because they are what we like. Have you ever read a book that was a childhood favorite of yours only to have your child seem completely disinterested? Parents have to accept that what we love might not be what our kids love.
For parents of older children, this goes for hobbies and sports too. We may be tempted to have our child do all the things we enjoyed doing at their age, but we have to remember that our kids are their own person and have a right to decide, within reason, how they want to spend their free time.
4. How They Should Feel
Kids, especially younger ones, use their emotions to communicate. Although their feelings can seem theatrical, especially before our morning coffee, these emotions are completely rational to our kids. They shouldn’t be allowed to throw a tantrum in the middle of a grocery store because you said no to the fruit snacks, but allowing children to express their emotions tells them their feelings are worthy which, in turn, tells them they are worthy.
Allowing children to express their emotions tells them their feelings are worthy which, in turn, tells them they are worthy.
Parents of teens, this goes for you, too! Let your kids feel whatever it is they are feeling (angry, disappointed, sad). But remind them that even though they feel a certain way, they are still to respect you and express their emotions appropriately.
Which one of these is the hardest for you to let go of?