My kids are becoming more and more aware of the world around them. It seems we are entering the ages in which peer (and even adult via school, programs, extra-curricular activities) interaction is becoming an important and more prevalent part of social-emotional development. They are becoming more and more aware of the world around them. The topic of personal responsibility and control has been coming up more and more lately, which led us to create this visual.
Whether it be a relationship with an acquaintance or friend at school, an adult on the playground, or even a looming storm cloud, the idea that we cannot control everything is an important concept to understand.
The graphic included is our collaborative effort to put what we can and cannot control on paper in front of us. This is a pretty general compilation of sorts, as we have quite an age span with my three girls, but it is still relevant enough that my 4-year old can begin to understand what is in her control and what isn’t.
Please understand, this is not comprehensive, nor will each age level have the same perspective. And that’s OK. The idea is to empower these kids to understand what is in their control and equally, what is not. The struggle of trying make someone do something can be decreased dramatically as this idea grows with the child and their personal empowerment develops.
We’ve done this individually, especially for my older girls. One on one you can get more specific, especially if a particular situation is challenging them. We kept it pretty generic, and my youngest kept saying, “You can’t control the rain!” And then a minute later, “You can’t control the snow!” A minute after that comes, “You can’t control thunder!” So, you can see what the general category of “weather” had a bit more specifics in parenthesis.
Why does it even matter?
Well, good question. Identifying what is in our control versus what is not helps support the following:
1.) Anxiety Reduction
I have found that in working with kids through teaching yoga, particularly kids that have anxiety, the idea that they cannot control everything can help release the pressure of needing to be aware of everything all of the time. When or not you bring faith into this equation is up to you. However, the non-specific concept that there are definitely things we cannot control, like the weather, whether or not the bus is late, is freeing to kids (and adults).
2.) Greater Self-Referral and Less External Referral
Additionally, growing up is not easy. Peer pressure, heck, societal pressure, is very powerful. The reference point for the choices we make is within our self and not outside the self. (ie: If we really like quiet, then pretending we love loud parties more simply to fit in is focusing on an external reference – outside what we really want.) Kids who have a solid sense of self-referral are less likely to be as influenced. The awareness that they cannot control what their peers think or do can be helpful in reinforcing personal responsibility – the idea that the only thing they really can control is themselves and their reaction. Focusing on the things we can control brings it back to our choices. It brings things back to the self; what do we want for ourselves, not about what others want from us.
3.) Less Wasted Energy
So much energy is wasted on trying to act a certain way, dress a certain way, talk in a certain way to get a desired result. This goes for kids as well as adults. And while it may work out once in a while, the amount of energy spent in someone else’s head is exhausting. Not to mention, it is distracting from determining what we want for ourselves, presently and in the future.
Lastly, the acknowledgement that others make choices and we can make different choices helps reinforce individuality and self-empowerment. Their voice is important, their opinion is important, their personal choice is important. Kids can feel stronger in themselves and their own choice, even when they are different than their peers. Not everyone is the same, we cannot control them, they cannot control us, and that is OK. Everyone gets to be themselves and that is important.
And is this foolproof?
Of course not. This won’t cure every heartache, dry every tear or resolve every disagreement. But it’s a start.
Here's what we did:
1. Draw a circle. Talk about that circle being related to the person with whom you are working. That circle represents their sphere, their bubble, so to speak.
2. Start brainstorming and writing down what you can control (you might get some interesting answers, so be prepared to gently guide back on to topic). On the outer part of the circle, begin to brainstorm and write what you can't control. We tried not to get too specific in what we wrote, but in our discussion, we did get some pretty specific answers! Additionally, there are concepts that can cross both lines, like getting sick for example. You can't control whether or not you get sick, yet there are precautions you can take to help reduce the possibility. Again, personal responsibility is the key.
3. Wrap up with any questions or as it so happens for us, LOTS of personal stories! :) Kids are smart, and seem to really absorb concepts when we talk, write, and visually get to see the answers. And for us, we do this from time to time, starting from scratch - just to really make it stick!
Disclaimer: I am sharing what has been helpful in my experience. Content on this site is for reference purposes and is not a substitute for advice from a licensed health-care professional. You should not rely solely on this content and seek the counsel of a professional dedicated to your personal situation and circumstance when necessary.