As moms we do a lot for our kids. Even before they are born we start making decisions for them. What color will the nursery be? How will I dress my kids? What toys will they have? It is our job to create a life for our children and that comes with a lot of decision making. But at what point do we stop making those decisions? My children are little so I am in full on “Momcision” making mode right now, but I professionally work with high school and college aged students. I was recently at a conference where higher education professionals were discussing when “Momcision” making goes too far.
“Momcision Making,” the act of making decisions for your children instead of letting them make their own.
At times, making decisions for your kids is unavoidable, but think about it – every choice you are making is playing a role in determining the future for your children. Have we moved from letting our children shape themselves to shaping their future for them? What has become more common in the field of higher education is students who can’t make any decisions without checking with their parents. For example, everything from picking out a major to determining the kind of classes they are going to take. It is hard to provoke autonomous development without giving our kids the ability to make choices, even if those choices come with risk.
In my line of work there have been many labels given to parents over the years – helicopter parent, snowplow parent, steamroll parents, etc. We talk about how important it is to teach our kids autonomy, yet struggle to actually let them exercise that right. The root of this comes from a good place, we all want our children to be safe and protected and there are certain decisions that are just better for adults to make, especially when there is risk involved. The problem surfaces when kids enter an environment of freedom (like a college setting); they aren’t always prepared to fully understand the consequences associated with making decisions. This can lead to increased risk for the student.
So what can I do now to help my kids?
With younger kids, there is a necessary element of “Momcision” making, so don’t stop that. although this type of decision making can have negative outcomes, it can also have many positive outcomes. Using your own values to mentor your children is exactly what great parenting is made of. You are the best kind of role model for your children. However here a few tips to help foster autonomous development while also continuing to make “Momcisions.”
1. Involve your partner and ensure that instead of “Momcision” this is “Parentcision” making. Your children are made of elements of both you and your partner and modeling needs to be done together. Split tasks with your partner, for example: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday let your spouse decide on dinner; or one weekend a month have your partner plan a family day.
2. Present options and choices to your children. Instead of fully making a decision as a mom, like what is for dinner or what to wear that day, give your kids choices. For example, at the beginning of the week before you go grocery shopping involve your kids in planning a dinner menu with you.
3. Embrace failure. It is ok if your kid tries at something and fails. Failure is a normal part of life and it is essential that we learn to overcome it. In my job, I meet so many students who have been shielded from failure their entire life; however, failure is unavoidable and for these students they really struggle to understand this concept. Right now my son tries and fails all the time. There are several times when I find him frustrated saying, “I can’t do this.” Instead of doing it for him I do the following: 1) Tell him he can. 2) Ask him to take a deep breathe. 3) Together, figure out what he could be doing differently.
4. Diversify your life. Just like one should diversify their portfolio they should also strive to diversify their life. Increase your children’s exposure to different activities, cultures, celebrations, etc. This exposure to different ways of life can lead to a better understanding and acceptance of others.
Overall, I still do believe that tried and true statement, “Mother Knows Best.” However, just because we know best that doesn’t mean that always needs to be our choice. It is important that at some point we break out of the “Momcision” making cycle and help our children to develop strong decision making skills on their own. In doing so they will be more prepared for life after they leave the nest.