Another step to this week's work on allowing our kids to be who they truly are is allowing them to try on what they aren't. They can't know who and what they are without the freedom to experiment.
There's a story told about the Persian sage/philosopher/folk character Mulla Nasrudin:
“Oh great sage, Nasrudin,” said the eager student. “I must ask you a very important question, the answer to which we all seek: What is the secret to attaining happiness?”
Nasrudin thought for a time, then responded. “The secret of happiness is good judgment.”
“Ah,” said the student. “But how do we attain good judgement?”
“From experience,” answered Nasrudin.
“Yes,” said the student. “But how do we attain experience?”
(Published in The Beggar King and The Secret of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy).
Kids are going to have bad judgment.
Sometimes it will come in the form of getting caught in emotional drama. As parents, we know that a child may be tired or hungry and will feel better soon, but they don't know that until they experience it. We have a lot of opportunities to hold space for our kids as they feel and process emotions. If your child sobs about giving you back your cell phone, forgetting to bring home their homework, or bedtime, you can embrace the drama, inviting them to express it. Check out my recent posts Forget Logic and Holding Our Children for more about this practice.
Sometimes they have bad judgment when they start imitating a friend's whiny voice, style of dressing, or other quirk. Or when they eat a big meal right before sports practice. Or when they eat too much candy all at once. Or when they spend their entire allowance on something they're likely to break. As kids get older, they may drink too much, fall in love with the wrong person, fail a class, or choose a college that isn't a great fit. All of these are experiences that can help them, ultimately, to attain happiness.
When your child experiments with a persona or voice that isn't theirs or makes choices unlikely to end well, remember how important it is to learn from bad judgment! If it's safe, respect their freedom to discover good judgment through experimenting with bad judgment.
As a mom (to 2 teenage sons), wife, and person in the world, I have been on a long imperfect journey. I have made many mistakes, but with mindfulness, emotional reflection, and lots of support I have learned enormously from those mistakes.