Musings On Raising Free Thinking Kids

How can language and approval/disapproval be used when trying to raise free thinking kids?

I read the “The Four Agreements,” not that long ago and the approval piece in it struck me. It talks about the fact that our quest for approval from others – and training our kids to seek out our own approval – stops us all from listening to our own inner compasses. You know what I’m saying?

It’s like, we grow up and our teachers and parents are saying things like, “oh, that’s bad” or “I like that” – and then we change our behaviors based on their approval or disapproval. What sucks about that is that by doing so, we stop listening to our own hearts. We do things or don’t do things because of external approval, not necessarily because our own inner guidance system is saying to do it or not do it.

Most parents and teachers don’t know any better – it’s how they were raised too. Even if they do know better – as my parents did – it’s a hard, hell of a hard, habit to break. The desire to lay approval or disapproval down is fierce; “that’s good” or “that makes me so happy!” come readily to parental lips. I know they come to mine.

I don’t want that.

I want my kids to learn to listen to their own hearts and feel out their inner navigational system. I want their connection with God – or Source, the Universe (whatever you want to call it) to be so strong that they use that guidance to center and tether themselves. Not me nor my approval, and not anyone else either. I want them to listen to themselves. To really, truly listen to themselves.

While I know this, I struggle with the HOWs. How to do this? How to help them hear their own inner compass? How to guide them without laying on all of my own approval/disapproval? And how on earth to do this while teaching them good manners?!

How do I raise my kids to be free thinking kids, but not feral?

I know my mom and dad struggled with this same question. I know they wanted my brother and I to be free thinkers too.

I understand the things that they tried with us now, all of the exercises and ways of thinking and talking to get us to THINK FOR OURSELVES, I understand all of those repeat-back things they did with me when I was growing up like, “so if I’m hearing you, you would like to – blahblahblah – ?” which would drive me NUTS because it was never a yes/no thing. I had to THINK FOR MYSELF – arrgggghhhhhhhhhhh.

Anyway. I’m there now. Repeating Micah’s questions to get him to THINK FOR HIMSELF and feeling the deja vu and sensing there are better ways of doing this.

The Feral Fall

One thing that I slip into thinking is that if I don’t tell my kids very clearly and plainly what to do all the time, if I let them make their own choices, they will become like wild animals. I think most of us think that. There is this super strong notion that if we gave kids a choice, they’d lean on the side of marshmallows and violence. Or, in a class setting, that it would be all recess and no math.

I tend to agree with that when I’m not thinking. When I am thinking, I know for a fact that it’s not true, because years ago, I put it to the test. I gave my second grade students a choice in what they wanted to do every day, and kept track of their choices. The kids, even at that tender age of 7, had a very clear sense of their academic and physical strengths and weaknesses, and brilliant ideas as to how to address both. It just took a LOT of listening and paying attention to them to flesh it all out.

So, looking at my own kids now, I know that they know what they need and want. I know that they have great internal navigational systems, inner compasses that are tethered to Source (or God, or the Universe, whatever you want to call it). It’s a matter of me helping them to tune into that.

I’m trying to figure out the language pieces. Like, what do I say when Mack’s pulling Moxie’s hair or when she grabs his toy and throws it out of the car window? When Micah gets up and gets water for his siblings at mealtime without being asked, how can I express the awesomeness of his action without it coming back to ME and MY approval (or ME and MY disapproval!)?

I was talking with friends about this, and I was recommended a couple of books, “Mindset” and “Nurture Shock“. I’ve dived into Mindset – so far it’s fantastic. I’m working through the “A-Ha Parenting” website and set to take the “Peaceful Parenting” course (the title makes me cringe, but I’m board after seeing Stefanie use it in action). More to come on this.

That’s where I am.

Trying to find some new ropes to climb to some new heights in this parenting thing.



is a deaf blogger, global nomad, tech-junkie, cat-lover, Trekkie, Celto-Teutonic-peasant-handed mom of 3 (one with Down syndrome and one gifted 2E).
She likes her coffee black and hot.
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