The Only Choice You’ll Ever Make

When you agree with somebody, there is no problem. You both feel the same. If there is a difference, it is a difference of degree. You like Tom Cruise, the other person loves Tom Cruise. But both of you feel positively about Tom Cruise, so you’re both happy.

‘Problems’ arise when you feel differently from someone else. And if that someone is your child, the problem assumes huge proportions. You are torn apart by your love for the child and your desire to see him ‘happy’ on the one hand, and by your ‘knowing’ exactly what will make him happy on the other!

Your son says “I’m going to get my left eyebrow pierced.”

You wince, cringe, bite your tongue, speak civilly to him about it, try to dissuade him with ‘logical’ arguments – and then all hell breaks loose. Your son is going to do WHAT?! You can’t believe it! How does he think he’s going to find an after-school job with a pierced eyebrow? And what of his position as a star of the school debating team? They won’t send him to the nationals (and he’s good enough to qualify) with a pierced eyebrow! He’ll blight his own future! All because of a silly whim! I mean, how will a pierced eyebrow add to his happiness? Does he have to do this to be part of the ‘in’ crowd? Who cares about such an ‘in’ crowd? (Umm – apparently, your son does.)

It goes on and on – for days, weeks, maybe months. Either he will get his eyebrow pierced, in which case, you will throw a blue fit, and blame every social, academic, physical, mental and emotional issue he will face in the future on the eyebrow-piercing. (Perhaps till he’s in his 30s – if he’s lucky enough to be forgiven that soon! :-))

If you emerge victorious (yes, I’m using war language, because this has become a battle between the two of you), he will blame you for everything. (“If you’d let me have my way, I’d be happier, and I’d have studied harder and got into an Ivy League college” (!), for instance.)

It might not be eyebrow-piercing. But there will be something or other about your child that drives you to distraction, that makes you feel as if you have no choice but to react as you do.

You teach him how to make the bed, and he learns. What’s more, he actually makes his bed every day! 🙂 But he’s not making it the ‘right’ way (also called ‘properly’ or ‘correctly’), and that is a problem. If it is his bed, he will have to make it (and lie in it! :-)) all his life. I ask you: doesn’t he have the right to make the bed his way? What difference does it make, after all?

She was solving problems in differential calculus before she turned 10 years old, but she wants to clean, trim, buff and polish people’s nails at a salon. Obviously you’re tearing your hair out by the roots in frustration. What else can you do when she simply won’t listen? You have no choice!

That is not true. Whatever the issue: habits, attitudes, thinking, choices regarding friends, careers, significant others – you always have a choice. And it is always the same choice!

At every moment of every day, you choose either to be RIGHT, or to be HAPPY. There is no other choice.

Amazingly, most of us choose, almost all the time, to be RIGHT. And that sets us up in conflict with other people. Arguments, slanging matches, tension, anger; loss of focus, time, energy, health, relationships – we accept all this. Accept? We actively choose it!

Because we’d rather be right than be happy.

You want your child to do as you wish because you believe you know better. You may know better. But you may not! You refuse to even consider the second option. Comfortable in your higher age, your greater ‘experience’ and ‘maturity’, you are immovable in the notion that you are ‘right’.

Well, so what? Even if you are right, why should she listen to you? Some day, she has to learn to make her own decisions. How long will you look over her shoulder? How will she learn what works for her and what doesn’t? When will she be her own person?

You know it’s a criminal waste of her abilities if she works in that salon. Actually, so do I. I am 100% with you on this. But once you’ve coaxed and wheedled, explained and pleaded, threatened and blown up at her, there’s nothing left to do.

At the end of the day, you can’t ‘make’ her do anything. It has to be her choice.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t get your children to see your point of view. You are the parent. They do not have the breadth or depth of thought or experience to know as much as you do. But once you have informed them, exposed them to the consequences of a decision, you have to learn to walk away.

It has to be your child’s decision.

Meanwhile, you have your own choice to make. Will you choose to be ‘right’? If you choose this, you will be resentful of your child’s choice, there will be unpleasantness, fights, and you will create a deep rift in your relationship with your child. Because your love for her is set up in conflict with what you ‘know’ is ‘right’ for her.

What if you chose to be ‘happy’? You may obviously never be HAPPY about her choice, but now that she has made it, you may choose to accept it. Now you can choose to be happy that she is doing what she chooses, even if it is not what you wished for her. You can tell her frankly that you disagree with her choice, but that you are willing to respect it. And then go ahead and respect it!

From your point of view, at worst, she will ‘waste’ her potential at that salon all her life. But she will remember and value your support and respect for her decision. You will have a wonderful relationship with her.

At best, she will become impatient with the lack of challenge and choose again; something more in line with her abilities. She will not ‘waste’ her life. She will remember and value your support and respect for your decision. You will have a wonderful relationship with her.

It’s your choice.

17 Responses to The Only Choice You’ll Ever Make

  1. Preeti Hans September 15, 2011 at 11:58 pm #

    oh gosh! hats off to you to feel that raising kids is fun! hope all kids take decisions that make them happy and their parents understand them too!

  2. Vinita Zutshi September 16, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    I don’t think anyone – kid or not – can always make decisions that lead to happiness. It’s about choosing your reaction to decisions others make.

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