Do you realize how many choices you personally make in a day? Everyday we make hundreds of choices, most of them are small, like choosing what to wear today, and others might be huge like choosing what to name your child, or where to send them to school. All day long we are making subconscious and conscious choices and that is why it is essential that we give our kids opportunities to make choices and teach them that our choices have consequences.
It is also important as adults and children to realize that because everything is a choice . . . NO ONE CAN MAKE US DO ANYTHING! This was a very very hard concept for me to accept and learn - but once I finally grasped it I found a new freedom in my life. Absolutely no one can make me feel anything, do anything, or say anything everything is my choice. How often do you as a parent say, "My kids are making me so mad!" Well how do you feel knowing that you are making a false statement? Your kids are not making you mad - even if they just dumped a gallon of milk on your freshly mopped floor - they are not making you mad, you are choosing to get mad at them. How often do you hear your friends complaining about how horrible their husband is treating them? Do you ever tell them that they are choosing to let their husband treat them badly? By realizing that no one can make us do or feel anything we are literally taking our life and it's outcome into our own hands.
I did not have an easy childhood, in fact, it was pretty horrible, and one day in my junior year history class we were given an assignment to write our personal history. After my teacher read my history she looked me straight in the eye and asked me why on earth I was so happy and m answer was simple - "I choose to be happy no matter what." That is what my life is based on - I choose to be happy and I choose to be treated with respect from everyone I meet and come into contact with.
How does this apply to parenting? Every interaction we have with our children is of our own choice and we need to teach our children to accept responsibility for the choices they make. Here are some examples of how this applies to parenting:
Alex asks to play video games, his mom tells him that he can play video games as soon as he cleans up his toys. Alex then has a choice to make - he can either clean up his toys and play the video game or he can choose to not clean up the toys and not play the video game. Alex chooses to pick up his toys and when that is done his mom turns on the video game and tells Alex how much she appreciates him choosing to pick up his toys.
Alex is happily playing with the video games and Alex's little brother is playing with blocks. Their mom chooses to use this time to start folding laundry and watching her favorite show in the other room. After a few minutes of mom watching her show and folding laundry she hears screaming in the other room - Alex's little brother chose to throw a block at Alex and Alex chose to throw it back. Mom's initial reaction is frustration because her kids are interrupting what she was doing and she has a choice to make - she can choose to remain frustrated and go into an already intense situation with her two sons angry and ready to punish some kids - or she can choose to calm down and accept responsibility for leaving her two sons unsupervised and walk into the intense situation already calm and ready to calm down her two hurt children. Which one do you think will have a better outcome? When the mom chooses to calm herself down first it will always have a better outcome than when mom chooses to be angry.
When we learn to control our emotions and acknowledge that it is our choice to be frustrated, sad, hurt, angry, or understanding, calm, or happy we are better able to teach our kids those same skills. Recently my daughter hit my son and when I asked her why she CHOSE to hit him she told me that it was because he made her so mad. When I told her that he could not make her mad but rather she chose to get mad at what he was doing, she became even more upset and kept trying to convince me that he made her so mad that she had no choice but to hit him. After a very long discussion with her about how it was her choice to be upset by what he was doing - she could have chosen to ignore it, or to laugh at it - and how even if she chose to be upset by it she did not have to choose to hit him, but could have chosen to walk away or to call for help she agreed with what I was saying and the next time her brother started to "act like a brother" she didn't get upset but went with it and later came up to me with a smile on her face and said - "Mommy I didn't choose to get mad when he did . . . I chose to think it was funny and it was funny!" Now take that same kid and picture her ten yrs down the road, do you think she is going to be a victim of her circumstances or do you think she is going to be able to accept responsibility for her choices and make the most of her life? I am betting on the latter option, which is why this principle is so important for us to understand and apply into our lives and our children's lives.
I also teach my kids this principle as I am disciplining them, in fact as I was typing this my one yr old hit my four yr old in the face because he wasn't happy with how his brother was setting up Candyland. I do not tolerate hitting of any kind in our home so I immediately picked up my 1 yr old and while walking him to the crib I repeated over and over again that hitting is not an o.k. choice and that because he hit his brother he chose to go to his crib. I placed him in his crib, left the door open, and walked away until he stopped screaming (i don't time how long the time-outs are because they are only used to help them calm down) I went back into his room and asked him if was ready to make nicer choices to which he said yes. I brought him out of his room and after he told his brother sorry he began to play again and has not hit him once since coming out of his room. As a parent use every opportunity you can to reinforce to them that they are choosing to either make a good choice (cleaning up their room, getting dressed all by themselves) or bad choices (not listening to your words, hitting) and you will see a huge difference in the attitudes your children have towards the consequences they are given and how they interact with you on a daily basis - it will take time but be consistent and you will see results.
Also stop blaming everyone else for how your life is going - it isn't your husband's fault or your parents, or your kids or your sisters fault for how your life is . . . it is YOURS accept responsibility for that and see how much better your life becomes!