Around the Motherhouse Blog
- Created: 15 November 2008
An ex-Amish woman recently shared this bit of parenting "wisdom" with my mother; she said that the Amish parent by "breaking a child's will, but not their spirit". Now, if you have ever seen Amish children in a store, you could attest to the amazing wisdom of this parenting philosophy. They are well behaved, seemingly happy, and not crying and begging for every colorful toy or piece of candy that catches their eye. And yet....
Something doesn't sit well with this parenting approach. I have been thinking about it a lot lately. I struggle with finding balance in parenting ~ I want my kids to be creative, but when they creatively paint the bathroom wall with my new (and expensive "organic") hand lotion, well, I've got to draw the line. There seems to be a thin grey line between creativity and chaos. Between allowing my children to express their individuality and having lost complete control as a parent.
But "breaking a child's will"? I don't know. To be honest, I am not even sure what that means. What is a person's will? We use this word a lot in our culture - "will power", "willful", "willingness", etc. But upon examining this further, I realize that I can't put my finger on what exactly the will IS??!?!?
The dictionary gives me this bit of insight:
will [wil]n. 1. The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses a course of action; volition. 2. Self-control; self-discipline. 3. A desire, purpose, or determination, esp. of one in authority. 4. Deliberate intention or wish.
will [wil]v. 1. to decide, bring about, or attempt to effect or bring about by an act of the will: He can walk if he wills it. 2. to purpose, determine on, or elect, by an act of will: If he wills success, he can find it. 3. to give or dispose of (property) by a will or testament; bequeath or devise. 4. to influence by exerting will power: She was willed to walk the tightrope by the hypnotist.
Hmmmm. So does breaking a child's will mean to break them of individual desires, purposes, or determinations? Where is that line between allowing my children to have their own desires and be the master of their own power and between guiding them or being in control of them? For instance, they can desire ice cream for dinner, but they aren't going to get it. I want to honor their desires and at the same time I cannot allow them to attain all of them indiscriminately. Nor is it necessarily healthy to do so. Over indulgence creates a parenting nightmare: the proverbial "brat".
So, where is the line? Where is the balance? For now, I have to live with the fact that my children are at times wild, but that is because I have not only allowed, but have cultivated, their individual wills. Far from breaking their wills, I have reveled in them. At times, I struggle greatly with the power of wills - their desires vs. what has to be done (example: they desire to play at the park when we have to go home to eat dinner, etc.) and they can be very, very willful, i.e, very expressive about what it is that they want (read: temper tantrum), but in the end, though I sometimes wish they were less headstrong, less intractable, they aren't.
As a witch, our individual will is the source of our power. It is the power of our intention and to bring about the change in the world that we desire. Desire is part of the Charge of the Goddess and our will is something that is a blessing, not something to be broken and destroyed. For now, I will live through the power struggles and temper tantrums and continue to guide my children by encouraging them to develop their wills in healthy ways. Perhaps my new parenting mantra will be: "cultivating a child's will as an extension of their spirit"
I would love to hear your thoughts on what you feel the "will" is. Do you feel you have a strong or weak will? What are some examples of using your "will" in your magical life?
By Jenny June ~ Goddess mother of three, 10 year old Josie, 5 year old Zeke, and 4 year old Oliver~ seeking the joy and spiritual lessons of being a mindful goddess mama.