My parents, overall, were pretty awesome. They encouraged me to think for myself and to form my own opinions. They valued people who thought outside the box because that’s how they were; they were unique, quirky weirdos and I guess I have them to thank for helping to make me the unique, quirky weirdo I am today.
Thanks, Mom and Dad. You guys were way cooler than I realized at the time!
When I was 10, my dad decided that we should all go on a raw vegan diet. I say ‘my dad decided’ because although my mom had been working on him for years about going vegan- and she was an animal rights activist way back in the day, they had an old fashioned marriage. He called the shots. But my dad was usually a benevolent ‘king’ of his working man’s castle.
He wanted me to make my own mind up about giving up animal products. Or at least he wanted me to believe that it was my decision. He was smart. He knew that I would rebel and sneak meat behind his back if he forced me. I was a voracious little carnivore, heartily devouring even the most disgusting organ meats! He knew what a hard sell I would be.
So Dad did an incredible thing..
Instead of enforcing a new family law on me (like he would sometimes do with things he wouldn’t compromise on, like curfew), he did what any great dad would do: He grossed me out about eating “dead bodies” and swore that eating them turned my body into a graveyard. This was a quite a heavy concept for a 10 year old to grasp! But he knew what he was doing.
It took a couple months (oh I held out!) but finally I acquiesced. The last meat I ate was beef jerky from a 7 Eleven. I think I only ate about two bites before my dad told me that beef jerky was nothing but dried up blood. That was it. He won. I wouldn’t taste meat again for another 10 years!
My dad didn’t realize it but he taught me a very valuable lesson; he convinced me to give up something I loved by using solid arguments (for me at the time anyway) instead of force. He made his raw vegan bandwagon look good! He made a lasting impression on me -because it’s one of those dad memories where he actually parented perfectly and I knew it. He respected my wishes, and he didn’t use coercion, threats of punishment or any other power-over parenting technique. He let me rule myself and be my own sovereign person. And I LOVED it!
Sure he tried to gross me out, which might be taken as mild coercion, but he did so with humor, respect and kindness. He modeled love and made me want to be like THAT with everyone -including my own future kids. When I chose to join his weird raw vegan club, I chose wholeheartedly with absolutely no doubts or regrets. And I was dedicated to this new diet, although probably a bit too zealous about it. I was 10 after all. But that is a topic for another blog post.
We can teach our children to be self governing by getting out of their way and encouraging them to self govern whenever possible -a little more every year that they’re still living at home. This requires allowing them to say NO and to question our authority whenever they need to! It also requires that we really question our beliefs around obedience, which I discussed here. When we encourage our kids to think for themselves and make their own choices (about things that are age appropriate obviously), they develop responsibility, sovereignty and true confidence for being the rulers of their own lives – attributes they can’t develop when they’re “disciplined” with threats, coercion and violence.
If you want to raise a kid to have slave/tyrant or victim consciousness, use threats, coercion and violence with them. This is a sure fire way to make the state proud!
The current paradigm is rooted in the false belief that we are born to be ruled over by higher authority. Kids grow up learning to look outside of themselves for what to believe in. They learn to look for heroes and saviors and politicians to be responsible for them instead of learning to take responsibility for their own lives. Eventually, as most of us know, they forget who they are here to be and so their life, relationships, jobs and future parenting become inevitable struggles met with dysfunction, conflict and shadow.
We owe it to our children to prepare them for FREEDOM instead of slavery. We do this when we encourage them to question our authority, to say no and to make choices based on their own opinions and values – whenever it’s safe for them to do so.