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Part of living in the moment for me is allowing for more yeses and for following my heart without too much questioning or doubts. It’s about charging out into the world with less restraint and, most certainly, less worries. It’s also about making very intentional decisions about how we parent and raise our children.

By nature, I am a questioner. I’m also a bit of a control freak. Let’s just say that I like things the way I like them. I’m working on it — hence this Awesomely Awake project. {You didn’t think I was writing just for you, did you?}

I’d venture to say that one reason parenting is so hard for people is because they feel like they cannot get their children to do what they want them to do.

Just a guess.

I strongly follow the philosophy that if we want our children to listen to us, they must feel important. And, if we want them to feel important, they need to have responsibilities beyond the chores we give them, beyond making their beds and doing their homework and getting out the door on time. They need responsibilities and fun activities that leave them feeling valued as a member of the family and as a person.

We The Parents need to give up our My Way or the Highway type of control just a wee bit and by doing so we empower our children and watch them grow up more confidently and passionately — and likely more compliant in the long run. {At least that is my hope.}

We need to Trust our children to be able to make the right decisions. We need to allow them to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. We need to not get mad when that happens. We need to show them that we aren’t their bosses at the ready to reprimand but rather their coaches who are here to gently, and ever-so-carefully, show them the way.

I love this part of parenting where we get to witness how their little brains work, what they choose as important and the excitement they bring to a simple and very basic task. I learn something new from them every single time.

Below I will share some of our family’s favorite activities we use to incorporate and implement our daughters’ ideas so they will always know that their thoughts, feelings and ideas are valued in our family.

LET THEM MAKE THE RULES: At our house, we call it Rules. As in, “Mommy, I have a new Rule.” Oh, OK. What is it? {This is when you cringe because you just never, ever know what the rules will be}. “My Rule is that every time someone is sick, we get to watch TV all day.” Oh, OK. Sure, why not? Because, really, when you’re sick that’s all you want to do anyway. We get a lot of these kinds of Kid Rules in our house and while we almost alway agree to them, there have been a few that we just had to say sorry that won’t work like when it has to do with eating a ton of sugar every single day for, like, a year. I have my limits. I’m sure you have yours. It’s a gentle dance. So, let the kids make their own rules for a change this weekend. Encourage it. I find that at our house if we honor their rules, they tend to have more respect for ours.

PUT THEM IN CHARGE OF THE TO-DO LIST: Ah, the To-Do list. I can’t be the only one with a couple of those lying around at all times. Put the kids in charge of what you’ll do one day this weekend. Let them ensure that this weekend will be fun — their kind of fun, not our kind of fun. But make sure you put your fun on that list as well. Let it be true family-effort to write the list and to make sure it all happens {within reason}. We did this a few weeks ago. All four of us listed something we wanted to do — again, beyond the chores and errands that we always have to do. I loved that day. I loved that list. We did everything on that list from taking a walk, to playing charades, to putting together a new World map puzzle and, of course, resting. The above picture is a re-created list that one of my girls wrote because that list meant so much to her that she incorporated the list into playtime with her dolls.

LET THEM SOLVE A PROBLEM: Much like asking children how to do something, children like to solve problems. Well, some more than others, I guess. We have a toilet that runs now and then. We’ve been too lazy and too cheap to call a plumber or figure it out ourselves. Sometimes, I’ve stood over that darn thing for 10 minutes jiggling every little gadget inside. Nothing works. I asked one of our girls to look at it and she figured out that the handle isn’t popping up all the way. “All you have to do is push it up,” she said. “I stand here and wait and see if it goes up or not.” Huh. News to me. My 6-year-old taught me something. She’s quite the problem solver, actually. I try to tell her that often.

Basket image from I Heart Organizing. Click image for details.

LET THEM CHOOSE: The best gift I ever gave myself was creating a snack basket about one week into the school year. Each Sunday, I fill it to the brim with healthy snacks and then each morning the girls pick their own snack to take to school. There are several options and they feel empowered by this simple decision. The basket has boosted their confidence in making healthy decisions as well. Of course, they also get to choose how they want their hair styled each day, what clothes they will wear and, sometimes, whether they will pack or buy their lunch. I don’t mind giving up this kind of control. Again, by letting them make more choices about their day, they are more inclined to listen to my ideas when it’s important and crucial.

My children are still young so I’m sure there are many other ideas to share for older children, especially teenagers. How about you? How do you spark confidence in your children? How do you let them be active participants in the family beyond chores? Do you let them set any rules or set any agendas? I’d love to hear about it.

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