I had a gentle yet poignant reminder of the power we have in giving children choices. Of course the power only goes so far as your ability and willingness to follow through with allowing your child to actually make that choice even if you want that choice to be something different.
I’ll give you a simple example.
This morning I had the wonderful opportunity to lead story time at my 2.5 year old’s preschool. I put quite a bit of thought into this exercise. Where will the children be developmentally speaking, what’s seasonally relevant, what’s topically relevant, etc. So, I had three books chosen as first in line. One focused on emotional development (Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae), one on the season (The Mitten by Jan Brett) and one local favorite singer and song/book writer (My Woodland Wish by Kate Endle and Caspar Babypants).
So, last night when we were preparing for bed, I said to my son, ‘remember that I get to come into your school tomorrow and read stories to your class!’ my son replied, ‘yes! Which books? I’d like that one at preschool!’ as he points to his Thomas’ Christmas Delivery book.
It occurred to me that I had not allowed him to be a part of this decision making process. So, I asked him specifically to choose a book that he’d like to share with his class. As I secretly held onto the hope that he would choose something other than Thomas the Tank Engine, he again chose Thomas. Why did I want him to choose something different? Well, I think Thomas is commercial, ubiquitous and not interesting to girls.
But I followed through and didn’t try to influence his decision. I supported him.
So this morning I reluctantly packed up the ‘chosen one’ and put a genuine smile on my face. As I introduced the book to the class, a few wonderful things happened I said, ‘J chose this book to share with you all. #1) His face lit up. His classmates smiled at him. Then I asked the group of boys and girls, ‘Who knows this guy?’ as I pointed to Thomas on the cover. Hands of both boys and girls shot up in the air, smiles and enthusiasm swept the room.
At that instant, I felt the satisfaction of knowing I had done something right in allowing my son to make a choice and then following through with it. He gained confidence and I modeled the positive and powerful behavior of commitment and follow through to him.
And to think we got all of this goodness from allowing him to choose a book for story time. Imagine the possibilities!
As our children grow up our willingness and ability to allow them to make their own choices comes with much greater risks and consequences. So take a deep breath and prepare for the next decade or so of letting go and being prepared to be there if that choice may not turn out to be the best one after all. In the end though there will be a lesson learned that will help your child grow to be a secure, confident and productive citizen. No guarantees, of course, but the odds are definitely in your favor.
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