Choice And Consequences

By Anya Hanson Wendt

My daughter Ashlyn, age nine, is clear that she is responsible for her life – her happiness, her accomplishments AND her choices. She is also clear that all choices have consequences, and, as she makes choices for her life day-to-day, she is also choosing the consequences.

In our family, consequences are not necessarily negative – they are just the natural course of things; cause-effect. For example, if she studies hard for a test and is responsible for understanding what will be on it, the consequence is a grade of A – which pleasantly enough, has other consequences, such as money from her father.

And, for example, if she uses the word “WHAT-EV-VER” in response to a parent, there is an immediate cease and desist of all entertainment items for 24 hours (i.e. iPod, TV, Wii).

While this is generally empowering for both her and I, lately (before Lifebook) I had been getting more and more of these kinds of comments…

“Mom, I understand the consequence (of not doing my homework), and I am choosing to not do my homework. It is my life, my choice”! Or, “Mom, I just wanted you to know that I am not going to practice piano today. I know I will progress more slowly if I don’t practice, and I am OK with that.” By the way, you can see how “responsible” she was in communicating her choices – she even told me in advance!

I had been considering this development, and was, frankly, a little stumped as to how to handle it. She loves piano, and I am committed to intrinsic motivation rather than manipulation – yet, on the other hand, she had better practice that darn piano!

Then, I participated in Lifebook – and, as part of my Parenting Category, shared what I had learned with Ashlyn. I asked her if she would like to create a Lifebook of her own. She readily agreed, and here is what has happened:

  • We now have a special ‘together time’ each week to work on our Lifebooks. I am learning new things each week about my daughter, as she works to articulate her life choices. I am finding that just being together in this way – relaxed, quiet, and reflective – is a huge joy in itself.
  • Her consequence-time-horizon is lengthening. She is beginning to see the impact of her choices 5 years from now and is adjusting her choices accordingly. This has been miraculous in reducing the number “It’s my life, and I choose no” incidents.
  • We now both have a context of fun, creativity and ease in which to explore her interests. For example, in the career category, she is currently researching the different types of doctors she can become (She just recently moved to this career choice after a long-time fascination with being a bus driver).
  • I now have structure to nurture and support her interests that are coming forward; Lifebook.
  • She articulates a new appreciation for me! Because sharing my Lifebook is a very intimate experience, she is getting to know more about my life, my thoughts and what is important to me – I am experiencing a new level of respect for who I am as person.
  • Increased Intrinsic motivation rather than mom-domination. Lifebook is altering the types of conversations she is engaging in. Both of us are less likely to fall into the dominate-resist pattern, as she is increasingly motivated from within and I am able to honor her choices with ease.

More and more though, through our Lifebook work together, it becomes clearer to me the delightful gift that these moments hold for both of us. Through them, I have seen that shifting priorities and perspectives do not have to be frightening nor do they have to interfere with our independent choices. On the contrary – when shared, this kind of growth enhances, enriches and expands our relationship – and Ashlyn and I are fully engaged and excited to keep moving forward – expanding, changing and growing, together.

Thank you Lifebook!

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