They’re The Only Ones In There

It seems obvious but we violate it pretty much constantly. To some people, their basic definition of parenting violates it, but that doesn’t mean that the underlying fact isn’t true.

Dr. Becky (read Good Inside already!) says she tries to repeat it to get kids as often as possible: “You’re the only one in your body, so only you could know what you like.”

She probably repeats it as much for her kid’s benefit as theirs. Because of course, ​they know what they like​. The problem is that we tend to assume that we know better. And how could that be true? We’re not inside them, ​we’re not the same as them​, as much as they sometimes seem like us.

The reason we have to remember that our kids are the ones in their body is that it comes down to consent. Do we really need to force them to wear this shirt over that shirt? Do we need to convince them that they like this food or that one? Do we need to tell them what their major should be, that actually they’d be happier if they pursued accounting over English? By doing these things we might be ‘winning’ the argument, but we’re damaging their ability to understand themselves, to understand their autonomy, and also making them, ironically, susceptible to other people (or influences) forcing them to do things we wouldn’t want them to do.

Obviously there are some things, especially early on, where we have to make choices contrary to theirs (such as matters pertaining to sleep or bathing or health). But so many of the other fights and arguments we get into with our kids have much lower stakes. ​As we’ve said before​, ‘knowing better’ is a corrosive thing, because it becomes less true over time and it’s hard to turn it off once you’ve internalized the assumption.

It’s worth remembering then that they’re the only ones in their body so only they would truly know what they like and what the right call is in some scenarios. It’s important that we know this. It’s more important that they know this.

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