Thursday, June 12, 2014

There are Just Some Things You Have to Learn for Yourself

Somewhere along the way John acquired a tiny green canvas tent that was also old and a bit musty-smelling. In spite of all its 'charm', though, every once in a while the kids would get the ‘brilliant’ idea to set the tent up in the back yard so they could spend the night in it.

Now you need to keep in mind this wasn’t a pop-up tent that went together easily. This was an old-fashioned tent with poles, stakes…the whole bit. It wouldn’t be easy for them to put up and I knew without a doubt that once they got it put together it would be too hot and smelly to sleep in.

But did I tell them that? No. Every single time they asked to camp out in that raggedy little tent I told them to go ahead—but that when they were done they had to put it away and that we’d leave the back door unlocked when we went to bed in case they changed their mind.

And without fail, come bedtime, they’d opt for their beds over the tent. Well, there was a time or two they started out in the tent, but it never lasted very long and in they would come.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I could have saved a lot of time and trouble by saying no to the whole tent saga after a couple of aborted missions. And you’re right, I could have. But do you know what the rest of my day would have been like?

“Why can’t we put up the tent?”

“We promise we’ll stay all night this time.”

“We will take it down…we promise!”

“Just tell us why you won’t let us.”


Over and over and over again. Why would I do that to myself when I didn’t have to? And why would I miss the opportunity to let the kids come to their own conclusions and figure things out for themselves?
Letting them repeatedly put the tent up and down:

a)      Gave them something constructive to do that required cooperation and problem-solving (Even though they did it often enough they pretty well had the process mastered.).

b)      Allowed them to make a choice or decision on their own rather than having me make it for them.

Allowing your children to figure things out for themselves rather than being the dictator in their lives is an invaluable gift every parent needs to give their children. Yes, it would have been easier to say no than listen to the chatter and chaos and arguments over how the tent was going up. And yes, it would have been a lot easier to say no than to have a ‘rescued’ field mouse on the loose in the house so they could learn some animals just don’t make good pets or to let them figure out the ‘hard way’ why they need to punch tiny holes in the lids of their lightening bug jars instead of big ones or no holes at all instead of arguing with them over why.

Yes, it may have been easier and less chaotic, but I wouldn’t have been doing them any favors and I wouldn’t have been preparing them for making bigger and more difficult choices later on.
Trust me, there are going to be plenty of times you will have to step in and say no. And there are going to be times when you wish you could, but can’t. But by giving them the chance to choose and make decisions (and live with the consequences of these choices and decisions) while you can be there to advise and offer a buffer of protection if necessary, your children will be stronger and wiser and more capable of making good choices and decisions later in life instead of acting on impulsive whims.

I honestly don’t know what came of that tent, but I am inclined to believe that Zach made the decision to make sure it disappeared after having to sleep in it a few times on camping trips. Sorry, Bub!

Momma D