Since everyone has an Inner Compass, this means that children do too. But what does this mean in practice for parents and teachers? How do we respect the fact that each child has an Inner Compass without allowing children to become "spoiled brats" or "petty tyrants"? There is a lot of confusion about this, so let's take a look at what's going on.
When we have children, it's the parents’ job to provide a safe platform for the child to grow up and develop. Providing a safe platform includes providing a safe home with food, clothing, education, medical care, emotional support, etc. All of this is the parents' job. Parents do this best by creating a home where there are clear, basic guidelines or ground rules as to how we human beings can live together in peace and harmony while respecting each individual's right to be who he or she is. And this includes our children.
Basic Ground Rules in the Home?
The basic ground rules in the home are pretty much like the rules of traffic. Red lights mean stop, green lights mean go. You drive on the right in this country (in some countries you drive on the left). The speed limit is one speed on the highway and the speed limit is another in town.
We all know about the rules of traffic and we all know that if we drive through a red light or drive faster than the speed limit, we can get a ticket or be arrested. It's not a question of whether we like these rules or not. These are just the ground rules we humans have agreed upon and set up to facilitate the way people can live and move around together in the best possible way without crashing into each other. So if you get stopped by the police because you were speeding, they don't ask you how this makes you feel or if you like the law. They're not interested and don't care – all they know is you broke the law (the ground rules). And that has consequences.
Kids Don't Have to Like the Ground Rules
The same goes for good parenting and the basic ground rules for peaceful living in a family. And this is where many parents get confused. Kids don't get a say in making the basic ground rules – that's the parents' job. And kids don't have to like the ground rules – they just have to know they exist and understand that there are consequences if they do not follow or break the ground rules.
This has nothing to do with allowing or not allowing children to feel their emotions. And this has nothing to do with respecting the fact that every child has an Inner Compass. Breaking the basic ground rules and experiencing the consequences is one thing. Feeling your emotions is another thing. So when a child breaks a ground rule, it has consequences whether or not the child likes it.
Parents are often confused about this and want their children to "like" or "feel good" about following the ground rules and about the consequences of breaking the rules. But this is impossible. It's impossible to expect children to always "like" or "feel good" about following the ground rules.
Children can dislike the ground rules at times and that's quite okay. The psychologically mature parent understands this and is able to say, "I know you don't feel like washing your hands before dinner, but that's the way we do things here in this house. When you're grown-up and have your own home, you can decide to do things differently, but as long as you live here, this is the way we do things."
When parents try to prevent their children from feeling what they are feeling, they are not respecting their children's right to be who they are and feel their feelings and the signals from their Inner Compass. So it's important to distinguish between what the ground rules are and how children feel about following them. These are two different things.
If a child dislikes a ground rule, that is his or her right and privilege as a human being because that's how the child feels. But this has nothing to do with following the ground rules. A child can dislike a ground rule all he or she wants, but the child has to follow it or there are consequences. It's as simple as that.
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So the clear message from the parent to the child should be: “This is the ground rule about this matter in this family whether or not you like it and regardless of how you feel about it. If you break the ground rule, the consequences are ...”
Emotional Abuse: Telling Your Child What They “Should” Feel
The confusion arises when the parent wants to control how the child feels about the ground rules and the various situations. Because then the message from the parent to the child is – you shouldn't be "feeling" what you are feeling. You should feel the way I want you to feel. You should be happy and like something because I want you to.
This is emotional abuse from the parent’s side because the parent is telling the child that he or she doesn't have the right to feel what they are feeling. The parent is basically telling the child what he or she "should" feel. This is disrespectful behavior from the parent.
Healthy, respectful behavior from the parent’s side says –"The ground rules in this house are that we wash our hands before dinner and we brush our teeth before we go to bed at night." The child can like this or not, but these are the rules – just like traffic regulations. And it's the parent's job to set up the guidelines and make the ground rules for the home – not the children's. A home where children are growing up is not a democracy. It's the job of the mother and father to decide on the basic ground rules for living harmoniously together – but that's it!
What's Not The Parent's Job
This is not the same as saying that parents get to choose the child's pathway in life. In other words, it's not the parent's job to choose what subjects the child likes best in school, who the child likes to play with, what sports the child likes best, who the child wants to be friends with, what kind of books the child best likes to read, and how the child feels about a multitude of things and situations.
Each child has an Inner Compass that is naturally guiding him or her in the direction of what feels best for them. And obviously, as children get older, the wise parents respect their children's intelligence and ability to make these choices for themselves. (The wise parent will try to explain to their children that everything has consequences, but that is not the same as trying to control a child's choices and preferences.)
This also means that when children become teenagers, it's not the parents’ job to decide who they are going to date, what career path they are attracted to, who he or she might want to marry, etc. All of this is the job of the young adult. And as children mature and become teenagers and young adults, the wise parents will encourage them to find and follow their Inner Compass when it comes to figuring out what's best for them and finding their pathway in life.”
©2016 Barbara Berger. All Rights Reserved.
From Barbara Berger's upcoming book (late 2016) "Find and Follow Your Inner Compass: Instant Guidance in an Age of Information Overload". For more about the new book including extracts, click here.
Book by this Author
Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life
by Barbara Berger.
About the Author
Barbara Berger has written over 15 self-empowerment books, including her international bestsellers "The Road to Power / Fast Food for the Soul" (published in 30 languages) and "Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life" (published in 21 languages). She is also the author of “The Awakening Human Being – A Guide to the Power of Mind” and “Find and Follow Your Inner Compass”. Her latest book, “Healthy Models for Relationships – The Basic Principles Behind Good Relationships” will be released in late 2022.
American-born, Barbara now lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition to her books, she offers private sessions to individuals who wish to work intensely with her (in her office in Copenhagen or on Zoom, Skype and telephone for people who live far away from Copenhagen).
For more about Barbara Berger, see her website: www.beamteam.com