How many times when you were growing up did you hear something like, “If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?” Of course, this was always directed at you after telling your parents you wanted to do something they didn’t approve of. At the time, your rationale was always, “But, everyone is doing it!”
Kids will still want to do things because their friends are doing them, but parroting back the line about the cliff or comparing them to lemmings isn’t very helpful. A better parenting style would be to coach your kids to know when they should go with the flow of the crowd or to steer their own course.
Teaching your kids to check in with their Internal Guidance System (IGS) when making decisions is the best way to help mentor them into becoming independent adults, who are comfortable being their wonderful, unique selves.
Sometimes on the surface, it seems like your kids want to do what the gang is doing, but when in reality, they are looking for an excuse to be able to go in a different direction. Parents often serve as the excuse, which allows kids to save face, but the healthiest and most empowering path for kids is any choice like that, which they have made on their own.
It’s not always easy for your kids to follow a different path, and you may remember how hard it was for you when you were growing up. But help your children to understand that doing something because everyone else is doing it, or because it’s easy doesn’t mean it is the right choice for them.
And don’t stop there! Be sure to keep up this conversation, and allow kids to understand and experience how making an easy choice can be the wrong choice sometimes. (As long as it’s not very harmful to them.) This is exactly how they learn that choices that seem difficult at first can often be the most rewarding choices in the long run.
Another point that kids may not understand or appreciate is that making choices is a skill to be learned, just like learning to ride a bike. Graduating to two wheels was scary and daunting at first and most of us experienced some bumps, cuts, and bruises along the way. That didn’t stop us did it? We still wanted to learn to ride a bike. It wasn’t easy, but it was what we wanted and we decided it was worth the effort. The same goes for your kids. They will experience lumps in life, we just hope they’re little ones.
Some adults have so much trouble making decisions on their own that they struggle to order a meal at a restaurant. They still use the emotional equivalent of training wheels, relying on other people’s input to make decisions. It’s not a good way to go through life. Instead, teach your kids to make the true and right decisions for themselves, while tuned into their Internal Guidance Systems, and they will be much happier adults.
What do you think?
© 2014. Sharon Ballantine. All Rights Reserved.