From the day we are born, we spend our lives learning. We observe those around us. We learn to sit, crawl, walk, and talk in some order. We learn to navigate the world around us by interacting with it and with others. We gain experiences, learning from each one. By the time we reach adulthood, we have amassed a large number of experiences and have learned a great deal.
When we enter parenthood, it only makes sense that we would want to pass on the information we have gleaned through the years. Afterall, we want what we feel is best for our children, and by passing on the information we have learned, we can give them a step up in life so that they don’t suffer the same struggles we did.
However, as much as we want to help our children, it is important to realize that our children’s journeys are not our own. While we are here to help guide them away from danger, to give them counsel when needed and asked of us, and to be a safety net for them in those early years of growth, they have to learn things themselves.
It would be easy if we could expect compliance from them at all times – if they would listen to what we tell them without question. As rewarding as parenting is, it isn’t always easy. Just as we are not perfect, neither are our children. Sometimes they have to stumble a bit or just experience something in order to learn.
It’s how we deal with these opportunities that defines us as parents. I say opportunities because mistakes and conflict are opportunities to learn and grow. As parents, we can recognize that we are all human, and therefore imperfect. We can also recognize that as parents, we are here to help guide our children through these opportunities in life.
We could punish, inciting resentment, revenge, rebellion, or retreat, creating a power struggle by our attempts to control another person. In doing so, we might receive short term compliance or we might breed defiance. Either way, we lose some of our children’s trust and the connection we have with them, neither of which are conducive to learning. Alternatively, we could talk with our children about the situation and encourage growth by helping them to come up with a solution to the problem, thereby helping them to learn conflict resolution and problem solving, while taking responsibility for their actions and feelings.
The bottom line comes down to want you want your child to learn. If you want them to learn that you are the boss and they must defer to you at all times, punishment is the way to go. If you want them to learn skills which will serve them through life, they need to be able to talk through the situation and come up with solutions to the problems.