Controlling versus Co-Creating with Children
Breaking the cycle of control does not mean abdicating our responsibility to children. There are many who will interpret letting go of control as irresponsible and hands-off parenting. In fact, breaking the cycle of control and coming from an entirely new paradigm takes tremendous involvement with children.
Letting go of control requires us to interact and be with children from a place that honors their experiences, their feelings, and their needs and wants. It requires more than “do it because I told you so.” What is required of us is to be with our children as co-creators.
I try to see children as having a different worldview and a different set of experiences, just as I would see a person who has different identities, such as race, ethnicity, socio-economic, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. The parenting process becomes not one in which I strive to have my children accept my particular view of the world, but rather where I try and understand their view and when needed and asked, I communicate my view of the world.
Together, we learn from each other and we co-create our experiences. My experiences are not more important than the children in my life. They are different. Often I must act as an interpreter to the confusing adult world in which I live. Often they act as interpreters to their world and the broader world they experience.
When they are treated with disrespect because they are children, I help them to understand why that may have happened. My responsibility is to understand the impact it has on them, not project what I think the impact is. When they say or do things that might hurt others, I work to help them understand the impact their words and behavior may have as well.
I am by no means in a perfect place in this co-creating relationship. Do I resort to power and control? Yes. At times it is because I must ensure that children are safe. I do and will yell at my son to stop if he is running in the parking lot away from me or into the street. I do and will step between them if they are hurting each other.
When safety is not an issue, I have also resorted to domination and control. My parenting is a process. Unlearning adultism is a process. I’ve spent 40 years fully indoctrinated in my belief that I have the right and responsibility to exercise control over children.
I spent far less time than 40 years defining a new way of living that is respectful of their world view and lives up to the values I espoused in my professional and personal life working with issues of diversity and social justice. I have a long way to go on my journey. It is in the process of learning to let go of what I know, rather than being perfect all the time, that allows me the room to grow.