Do we live in a world of bubbles? I remember blowing bubbles with my pre-school children to their great delight and laughter. Playful bubbles, like these, can be really fun and good. Lifestyle bubbles? Not so much.
Lifestyle bubbles tend to be exclusive, rigid, inflexible. They define the either/or polarity of our current, political landscape. But they tend to expand beyond political landscape.
My granddaughter, Kaitlyn, was about 4 years old long ago and entering a pre-K program full of then strangers. I spent time teaching her to approach another child with, “Hi. I’m Kaitlyn. What’s your name?” She was reluctant at first, so we practiced with her teddy bears.
When I picked her up from her first day of pre-K, Katie was so excited. She rattled off the names of four other girls she had met and played with in her class that day. That was her first lesson in being proactive, rather than reactive.
Another parent told me her story some time ago. Similar circumstances. When she was dropping off her daughter at pre-school, another child came up to them to greet them. The mom pulled her daughter back from meeting the other girl, explaining, “Hold on a second, honey. We don’t know this girl yet. Let’s find the mommy or her teacher.”
This family might be living in a bubble. Such bubbles can be protective, but maybe also defensive, limiting possible positive experiences.
Bubble families believe such things as “that’s not how we do things.” “That’s not our belief system.” “We stick to our own.” “Having more information will just be more confusing.” “Stick to what we know to be right for us.” Such beliefs limit experience, facts, and resources.
When families pop that proverbial bubble, children are given the freedom to explore their environments, better understand the variety of cultures, races, and circumstances in their worlds, and find comfort levels that work for them. They have more information from which to make informed decisions.
Developmentally, there are four stages of parenting, based on your child’s age. From birth to age 5, parents make all the decisions for their children. This is hands-on parenting. This keeps their children safe, healthy, and thriving.
From ages 5-10, parents hear their children out, qualify circumstances, and give their children direction. This is directed parenting, borne from their parents’ wisdom and experience. Children engage in and explore their worlds and friendships, but with keen parental oversight.
From ages 10-18, children are developing the capacity for abstract thinking, being able to form their own opinions about what’s important to them. Parents can buck their child’s growing sense of self and risk alienating them. Or, they can hear them out, understand their thoughts and feelings, ask if they want their help, and if asked for, give them advice. This is advice-based parenting. Tweens and teens benefit from their relationship and emotional intimacy with their parents. Parents nurture the quality of children thinking for themselves.
Beyond age 18, our young adults are living their own lives, making their own decisions, and finding their way through a mistake-ridden landscape. Having successfully launched our children into their independent, healthy relationships, socially conscious adulthood, we help them when asked by providing expert consultation. This is consultative parenting.
In business and industry, an expert consultant is first called in to give the consultation. Before his presentation, he gathers observations, policies, and practice to collect his thoughts on the matter. He then makes his presentation and recommendations, thereafter leaving whether his wise counsel is implemented, or not.
If I offer my opinion before being asked for it, I’m butting in. If I disregard my child’s perspective and feelings, I’m dismissing him. He might conclude that I think he’s too dumb or misinformed to get it right, so I’ll just do it for him. Even if the path he chooses is the opposite of your choice and full of risk and regret, the decision is his to make. Your expert consultation and wise counsel provide a foundation for on-going and growing emotional intimacy and healthy relationship with your now adult child.
Lifestyle bubbles are created within your parenting style. Since 75% of your child’s personality is formed in the first 5 years of life, your parenting decisions will likely stay with your child for their lifetime. No pressure. LOL Help your child be proactive, explore their expanding world in safe ways, and find their own path to the good life.