A few weeks ago I was dropping my children off with their mother (who lives separately from me) and one of my daughters was getting upset about the fact that she 'had to' do her school homework.
I reminded my daughter that there was no such thing as 'have to', that she could in fact choose not to do her homework, provided she was prepared to go and explain to the teacher that she had chosen not to do it. She protested further that if she did that she would 'get told off' by the teacher. I agreed that this was a strong possibility, but that even if she was told off by the teacher, she could simply choose to ignore everything that the teacher said.
My girls' mother then jumped in and accused me of teaching the children to be irresponsible and to avoid fulfilling their obligations.
"There are no obligations in life, only choices," I responded.
"Of course there are obligations! You have to go to work to earn some money. You have to look after your children," she countered.
Well, no I don't 'have to'. I choose to do both of those things. I choose to go to work because I prefer the standard of living that the income allows me to have. I choose to look after my children because doing so is the most rewarding and fulfilling experience I have ever had.
Listen to the difference between these two statements:-
"At the weekend I have got to look after my children."
"At the weekend I get to look after my children!!"
Perhaps our different attitudes to life would explain why my children's mother often seems to have a rather desperate expression on her face and often seems to be in a hurry to get our children off her hands.
Far from teaching my daughter to be irresponsible, I was encouraging her to be totally self-responsible. It was entirely her choice if she decided not to do her homework. But at the same time she is aware of the consequences of that choice. So she had to make a decision, her own decision, about which course she wanted to take. If I had introduced a more forceful approach, then I would have been removing her decision-making from her. I would have been forcing her to follow my decision. I would have been removing her self-responsibility and teaching her to 'just follow orders'. Anyone familiar with 20th Century History will know where that kind of teaching can eventually lead.
If you tend to wake up thinking 'I've got to face another day', try changing the language just a little bit to 'Woo hoo! I get to face another day!!'
After all, none of us ever knows. This may be the last one. Anyone who has lost a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly or been close to death themselves will back me up.
While you are enjoying the gift of another day, remember, there are no obligations, only choices.
"Must we use must? Do things have to be? Or may we remain unbounded and free?" Swifty Flame-Anderson
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