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Independence vs Protection – A Tricky Balance

balancing freedom and guidance
It is important to foster our kid’s independence, freedom and critical thinking. It is also important to protect them in certain circumstances. Often it seems like these two things are in direct opposition to each other. In order to protect them it feels like we have to limit their freedom.

Finding a way for these two things to co-exist isn’t easy, but it is possible.

How to Limit Watching TV

When my daughter was younger there were times when she wanted to watch certain scary or mature movies or TV shows that I didn’t want her to. I was tempted to tell her no, she could not watch those shows. I wanted to protect her from the possible negative influence they would have on her mind.

I generally I do not like to say no to her, but at the same time I knew that certain things weren’t the best for her to watch. I felt that if I said no or if I set a rule then I would remove the possibility for her to reason things out for herself. She doesn’t learn anything about herself or the world and it damages the trust she has in me.

My Job is to Protect You

The way I would approach this was to explain to her that part of my role as her father was as a caretaker or protector of her mind. I explained to her that everything that she watched or heard or read was affecting her mind. As she grows up it is my responsibility to protect her mind to keep it as clean and healthy as possible.

Just like the body needs certain foods in order to be strong and healthy so that we can do all of the fun things in life that we want to do, in the same way the mind needs certain things in order to stay healthy. This allows our mind to do all sorts of fun things as well!

So given this explanation I asked her to trust when I suggested to her that certain things wouldn’t be best for her to watch. She understood this explanation and has always trusted my guidance in this regard.

Be Flexible – There Are Always Exceptions

Continuing with the food analogy I also recognized that sometimes having dessert or chips is fun and important for the overall enjoyment of life. Even though there is some negative effect on the health there is a positive effect on the emotions.

So I let her know that if there was something that she really wanted to watch that she should be open and tell me. I made exceptions when she was very excited about something even though I knew it might not be the best for her.

Again it was this flexibility and willingness to listen to her needs and bend occasionally that kept her open to my guidance. It also helped her to be open with me about her feelings, needs and desires because when she did come to me with something different from my suggestion I would be respect it.

Know Your Reasons

One thing that worked to make this approach successful was that I had a very clear understanding of why I was guiding her away from certain things, or guiding her towards certain things. Of course that meant I had to be very clear within myself. It wouldn’t work if I just didn’t want her to watch something because it made me feel uncomfortable. I had to have good reasons that were really about her development, her highest good. This way if she asked me why I had a good reason and even if she didn’t ask, she could feel the energy behind the request was really for her.

Independence vs Protection – A Tricky Balance

The point is that we are trying to protect our kids and help them to grow up in the healthiest way possible.
We are trying to balance this with their development into happy, powerful, independent and confident people. Oh man the balance between protection and independence is a difficult one to find.

Wearing Makeup

Young girls wanting to wear makeup is another area where independence and protection come into play. Makeup has a lot of values and judgments around it in general. It is definitely associated with being an adult.

Growing Up Too Fast

We also tend to recoil when young women and girls try and act older than they are. Dressing too sexy, flirting with boys, wearing makeup and generally attention seeking through these type of behaviours before they are naturally ready.

Of course there is nothing wrong with dressing sexy nor with flirting with boys. The problem comes when they are doing this from some internal or external pressure. Often this behaviour is coming from a wounded place, seeking an acceptance externally that they don’t feel within.

Reframe the Experience

At the same time makeup doesn’t have to equate to growing up, especially if you imbue the experience with wonder, celebration, fun and magic. Saying NO to a girl who wants to wear it can make them rebel. It can make them feel like you don’t understand or respect them. This can sometimes cause more problems than the makeup ever would have.

I really believe that the smoothest transitions between stages of our young ones lives occur when we take the cues from them, and then guide and massage those cues subtly so they feel us beneath their feet as a solid foundation.

Say Yes Whenever You Can

I advocate saying “YES” to our kids whenever we can. A yes clear of hesitation, judgment and fear. A yes where they feel our complete acceptance and trust of their desires. This makes them feel validated and gives them significant ownership over their lives.

Guide Them Away When Necessary

The times we feel like it’s good to guide them away from something we can make them feel like we’re really doing this for their highest good. It’s important that they can answer the question “What’s in it for me?” If they can feel our true desire to make them happy and if they know they are free to make the decision themselves, they are more likely to accept and even embrace our guidance.

In fact I dare say that they might even look forward to our guidance!

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