I was in the middle of a brainstorming activity during my master’s program and an interesting problem arose.
“Healthy Eating and Children”
Now, most of my classmates don’t have children, some do, but most do not. It was just an activity to generate any and all ideas. No ideas were considered “bad” and there was no feedback allowed, only pure idea generation. It took a few tries to get the class started, but pretty soon, there were ideas flying all over the place. Well, let me correct that thought… there were ideas camouflaged in some thick opinions.
It was fun at first, but soon, sadness began to cloud my brain as idea after idea was structured around removing all of the choices from the children. “Remove all bad food from the schools so they don’t even have the option,” or “Educate the parents,” and “Educate the children,” or even “reward them with broccoli or a trip to the farmer’s market.”
Don’t misunderstand…. I’m not saying that putting better food choices in schools is a bad idea, or health education is a bad idea… I’m saying that they were removing all choices from the children as their ideas fleshed out. Let’s be real here… if I (as an adult) am offered a choice between M&M’s and broccoli… well…. let’s just say I might be munching on M&M’s right now… *smirk*
Now, we were not allowed to offer criticism or any form of evaluation, and I’m fairly certain my whole class thinks I’m an idiot anyways, but I spoke up regardless.
What do you think would happen if you remove all choices from our children so that they never had the opportunity to make a poor mistake? Who likes to be trapped and stripped of options? What human enjoys being controlled and ruled over?
The silence was startling.
Here I was, in a classroom full of master’s level students, all putting their collective brain power together to “solve” this problem… and they were missing the entire point.
Ladies and gentlemen…. I have some startling news for you all…
CONTROL IS AN ILLUSION.
If being a parent has taught me anything at all, it is that I most certainly do NOT have control, over anything or anyone but my own self… and even then…
I am reminded of the wise old tale of Kung Fu Panda…. where Master Shifu was arguing with the old tortoise about you can control when the fruit falls, and you can control where to plant is… blah blah blah… Then the old tortoise says something like, “ah yes, but no matter what you can control, the seed will still grow into a peach tree.”
What’s my point? Let go of the illusion of control, and do your job. Educate your kids. Tell the WHY it’s better to choose broccoli more often than M&M’s. Explain what happens, or what could happen. Educate them that they won’t die if they eat and M&M (unless they’re allergic). Go crazy and offer them choices!
When that master’s level class starts having babies… I hope they offer them choices… because if they don’t… Those babies will grow up and guess what…
THEY WILL GO NUTS WITH MAKING THEIR OWN CHOICES ANYWAYS
All those kids who were forced to eat veggies and never saw a snickers bar… I guarantee you their first week of college will be a diabetes carnival!
Ok, it’s not fair to predict the future, and allowing children to make choices is frightening. And not all kids who don’t get choices go bananas… (some become the compliant workers too afraid to make choices).
These are just some of the scenarios that could happen if children are not given the opportunity to make choices.
Look, I’m stumbling around trying to figure this whole parenting thing out as well… but I know that I want to make sure my children know how to make choices when they are out on their own one day.