The Should's and Shouldn'ts
There are a lot of "should"s and "shouldn't"s, and sometimes we get a little lost in them. "Am I doing the right thing?" "Did I do the right thing?" "Is this what I SHOULD be doing?" These are questions that plague all of us.
If you are struggling with these types of questions, keep reading. I am not going to give you an answer... honestly, there is no answer. You are the answer. Your growth, your development becomes the answer to any of these. How you choose to grow through, gives purpose to the direction. I am going to talk about where these questions come from, and perhaps delve into how to get around them, and how to possibly prevent future generations from getting stuck in the same loop.
Several clients come to me unsure of their own validity. They don't know if they're doing the right thing and they're not sure what they "should" be doing. They want to do the "right" thing, they just don't know what that is. I, of course, being human, also understand these feelings. It is one thing to know that there is no "right" or "wrong", there is no "should" or "shouldn't", and it is another thing to really feel and believe that. Consciously we may want to believe that, but on a deeper level there is always doubt and a need to be "right" even if we don't believe that "right" really exists.
How many times have you read or heard that there is no "right" or "wrong"? That there only IS? How many times have you acknowledged how truthful that sounds? How many times has that resonated for you? And how many times have you still fallen back into this circle of answerless questions? I think, for most of us this happens on a fairly regular basis.
Most of the time, I feel pretty good about what IS. I remind myself that there is no "right"or "wrong" and I open my self to whatever growth is available. But that doesn't mean I never get lost in the "should"s and "should'nt"s, it simply means I am aware of it when I do. It has taken me a lot of years to get to that point. And I've been asking myself lately why so many fall into this vicious cycle of questions and cannot find our way out.
If our subconscious programming is established and running by the age of 7, it makes complete sense really. Think about how we raise children. Their early years are inundated by information on what is appropriate and what is not, what they should and should not do, what is acceptable by societal standards. "Don't do that", "Do this", this is how we groom them. This is how we attempt to teach them how to be good respectful people. And I'm not saying that's bad. I'm just saying this is where that program comes from.
They learn to look to adults for confirmation and validation. They learn to believe that there is a "right" and a "wrong" way to behave. This translates into the later need for confirmation and validation of who they are and a belief in a "right" and a "wrong" way to BE.
How do we fix this? How do we teach our kids to be decent and moral human beings without instilling the idea of a "right" and "wrong" way to do it? It seems almost impossible. However, being that I know ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE... I am not ready to give up.
The best solution I have right now is to not just TELL them. Instead of just telling my kids "do this" or "don't do that", I am going to start encouraging them to decide for themselves. I want them to learn that they have the power to choose what feels good to them, that they have the power to BE any way that they are, and that there is no "right" or "wrong" about it. Instead of telling my children, "You SHOULD do this," I will them, "You CAN do this, and it may help you in THIS WAY."
Yes, children need guidance. And we can help them to consider the outcomes of their choices. We can say, "Well, if you do this how do you think that will make so and so feel? And how will that make you feel?" Or "If you do that, what do you think will happen next?" We can even say "Maybe next time you could try this and it would go differently." However, I think it is extremely important to communicate the reasoning behind our corrections or suggestions even if we are not sure they are mature enough to understand. It is important to emphasize the power of choice. To let them know that they can ultimately choose who and how they are. It is also important to emphasize the fact that we may not know all the choices... that there is an infinite number of ways to do anything and that our way is not necessarily the "right" way. It is important to let them know that we are doing the best we can. That we don't really have any idea what is "right" or "wrong", we are on the same journey as they are, just doing the best we can with what we have and trusting that we will grow through it. It is also important to apologize and admit when we think perhaps we could have handled something better. Let them see your growth. Let them know that it's not so black and white, that you are not perfectly "right" or "wrong" either.
It is hard to completely eliminate the idea of "right" and "wrong" when our society operates so much on a system of punishment and reward. We can however, teach our children that the greatest reward is simply to feel comfortable with themselves, and encourage them to follow their heart above all else. When my children think they have done something "wrong", my favorite line is, "It's okay, these things happen. I love you. What will you do different next time?"
I am not saying don't ever punish or correct them. I am saying make sure they know that a punishment doesn't mean you love them any less. You may think that your children know you love them no matter what they do, but they may not. It is important to let them know you love them no matter what they do, that no "right" or "wrong" decision or behavior earns or diminishes your love. Don't assume that they know this, TELL them. This advice also applies for teachers or caretakers of any kind. It doesn't have to be your kids. All kids need to know that their worth is never something to be earned or proven.
There is no "right" or "wrong". There is no "good" or "bad." Another one of my favorite lines is, "It's not bad, it's simply room for improvement." We all have that room! By being aware of our children's feelings and how they may internalize the methods or words that we use, we can raise a generation that is more empowered to find their own voice and trust in their own growth. We can ease this battle between "should"s and "should'nt"s that sometimes completely blinds us to all that we are! Thinking that there is a "right" and a "wrong" way to do things, often blocks us from seeing all of the possibilities in between. It blocks us into one of these two corners and prevents us from coming up with our own way, the way that best expresses our values and our truth.
I know that no teacher or parent or caretaker wants to let the kids run a muck and destroy things, and I don't blame you. There is a balance to be maintained. Set your rules and correct when needed. But whatever rules you choose to lay out and however you choose to enforce them, make sure the children you care for know that you don't know. Make sure they know that you are just doing your best and that you encourage them to do the same, even if that looks a little bit different than what you expect. Encourage them to consider the consequences of their actions, to understand why you have chosen the rules you have set in place. Then, encourage them to find their own way and to express their own voice, and listen to them whenever they voice it. Let's break this pattern of self doubt, not only in ourselves but in the generations to come.
Remember that no rule is set in stone, and that your methods, too, should stay flexible and adaptable. You are also growing. Stay aware of this internal struggle and how your words and actions may encourage or discourage it, and don't be afraid to change or improve them as you go!
We all know that children learn best through example. You, don't get lost in those "should"s and "shouldn't"s either! Give yourself the room to find your own methods that allow you to best support your children! No matter what is happening, just be aware of what IS and how you can grow through it. And remember there is no "right" or "wrong" way to do it! Let's be honest... all of the parents that have ever walked this earth -- none of them knew what the hell they were doing! We are all just learning as we go! Love your kids. Support your kids. Do the best you can and stay open to to growth. Correct and reward your kids in a way that seeks not to confine them in a box of "good" or "bad", "right" or "wrong". BE there for them no matter which box they seem to currently be in and encourage them to find their own way. Simply being aware of this internal struggle, where it begins, and how it continues to affect our lives, will make a huge difference in how you connect and how we evolve.