By David Benzel
in-ter-fere v. “to intrude in the affairs of others.” Where is the line separating parental guidance from interference? Here’s an example: As Trey begins to eat his food, Dad takes the fork out of his right hand and places it in his left hand — repeatedly if necessary. Trey is only two and half years old but his dad believes left-handed pitchers are drafted higher in the major leagues than right-handed pitchers. The goal is to make Trey a lefty. The intrusion begins at an early age! I wonder if we as parents are able to discern the difference between correcting misguided steps and insisting on “my will be done.” I write about this topic from the position of one who is truly learning the art — not a master of the art — of non-interference. Many times, I tried to force my will upon my defenseless children, always in the name of “father knows best.”
In his movie The Shift, author Wayne Dyer poses an interesting question. If there is a natural power or pull being exerted on a newly conceived embryo; perfectly guiding its development in the womb for nine months in the most perfect way — why is it that upon birth we presume to know the best path toward fulfillment of its purpose? Is it not obviously on its way to a purpose already? Why is it so hard for us to provide guidance without interfering with a child’s natural inclinations and desires? The strong urge to use one’s right hand, or left foot, right brain, or even make a left turn in life must come from somewhere within. An inner pull toward music, drama, speaking, or math is to be honored and nurtured, but not corralled and manipulated. Why do we insist on interfering according to OUR preference?
I wonder how many children hate sports, or a particular sport, due to forced participation at an early age. I wonder how many adolescents struggle with making good decisions in high school because their parents did not allow choices to be made during their younger years. Perhaps “choice” is the greatest gift a parent can give; not unlimited choice, but age appropriate choice.
The difference between guidance and interference is found in our motives. We must ask ourselves a question and search for an honest answer. Here it is: “Am I redirecting my child’s behavior because of a need I have or because of a need my child has?” A two-and-a-half-year-old does not have a need to be drafted as a lefty. His preferences will develop naturally and he’s best served through noninterference. However, a child does have a need to be kept safe from falling off Daddy’s ladder, and our guidance is crucial in that case.
A check of our true motives usually reveals whose needs we’re striving to serve. The choice is between being held hostage by our ego, or serving our highest purpose.
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David Benzel is the Founder and Executive Director of Growing Champions for Life, Inc., which provides parents and coaches with practical tools & positive strategies for helping athletes reach their full potential while enjoying the youth sport experience. David is also the author of “From Chump to Champ – How Individuals Go From Good to Great” www.growingchampionsforlife.com