How to Make Your Own Rules and Live Your Best Life

I recently had a conversation with someone about the ridiculous rules our parents imposed on us in childhood. I recalled my ten-year-old-self squirming at the table with a glass of warm milk. The family dog couldn’t help me, as he had with the chunks of beef I would pass him when parental eyes averted. So I sat, while the rest of the family abandoned the table for an evening of television.

Fast forward to my own years as a parent of young children. There I was, examining my newly clipped recipe while stuffing a spinach and cheese mixture into over-sized shells in a baking dish. Ah, the family meal, an unfailing flop. It happened every evening around 6. How did it always look so lovely in my mind, from the moment I saw our next meal in the latest issue of some fancy mom magazine? Why did I always forget that little boys loathe adult foods, and could always be counted on to spill something, drop something, or spew something out of some orifice at the exact moment when my fork met my mouth.

Let Go of Old Rules 

I’m not sure when I finally withdrew the archaic mom rule I’d learned in my youth: like it or not, you’ll eat what I cook! I suppose I finally got tired of all the pointless meal prep, finding myself at the table in angry-mom mode, and watching cold heaps of food get tossed in the trash.

One day I just woke up, slapped peanut butter on bread, and served it with a side of carrot sticks. No more fish faces at the table. No more stern warnings, post-meal exhaustion, or mommy frustration. I ate what I liked, they ate what they liked. And that just worked for us.

I had some friends who criticized, saying kids shouldn’t decide, but I stuck to my rules. Because menu be damned, no one should be forced to consume foods they hate. No one. I wanted my kids to be confident in their choices, and unafraid of expressing their likes and dislikes.

That made sense to me. That was my new rule. And with it, I instilled many others. I realized I had adopted rules that didn’t resonate with me. I was culturally correct (at least in my mom circles), but incredibly unhappy with my choices.

Are You Thinking For Yourself?

This post is not about parenting. It’s not a rant against rules, or a jab at my mom. It is about mindfulness, self-examination, and taking a moment to investigate the things we do daily to understand why we’re doing them. This post is about thinking like a boss (yeah, buddy!), being authentic, and living your yogic life.

In a previous post, I talked about giving yourself permission to be who you are. If I think about it now, it made sense that I was following other parents’ rules. As a newly married mom in my teens, I was insecure about parenting. I had all the books by Spock and every expert in the field telling me which way to wean and which diapers to use. I began following every rule in robot fashion, forgetting that I could actually think for myself and decide what worked for my family.

Forget the Flow

If you’ve been going with the flow, letting popular ideas and practices lead you down a path that doesn’t feel authentic, stop! Assess your own needs, and ask yourself this vital question:

Will this choice create happiness for me?

Mantra: I refuse to trade authenticity for approval. 

26 Comments
  • Rebecca Beck
    November 15, 2015

    I LOVE this post! So true and lots of food for thought! We all want them to eat healthy food but at the expense of tantrums and fights…
    Very well written too!
    Rebecca

    • Rica Lewis
      November 15, 2015

      Thanks, Rebecca! I appreciate your feedback. 🙂

  • Antonio
    November 15, 2015

    Totally agree, Rica! Why am I just now finding your blog? I have got some catching up to do 🙂

    • Rica Lewis
      November 15, 2015

      Thank you, Antonio! I’m so encouraged by that!

  • Rhoda
    November 16, 2015

    I am also from the “you’ll sit there till it’s done” family. Not to mention “you’ll do it because I told you to”. I’ve caught myself using the same phrase with my own kids, but like you, I have also taken a step back and asked myself “why?”. Who says it has to be that way? Why can’t we give them options? Or tell them the reasons? Is it a power play or do I have a reason for saying no? My kids are super good (and I’m not just being a biased mom). I think one reason they are so easy to raise is because I don’t make them feel like they have to challenge me. Great post. Definitely food for thought 😉

    • Rica Lewis
      November 16, 2015

      Thanks, Rhoda. I think we sometimes unintentionally teach our kids to be “seen and not heard.” I think that started out as a means to teach kids respect, but it ends up becoming a confidence killer. I am a reformed people pleaser! 🙂 I’m glad your kids are well-behaved. I’m sure it has a lot to do with your efforts!

  • Tanja
    November 18, 2015

    Great post. 🙂 I love this question – Will this choice create happiness for me?. I always make sure I do what makes me happy. 🙂

    • Rica Lewis
      November 18, 2015

      Awesome, Tanja! That phrase is a good little road map for our souls. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Christina Wherry
    May 9, 2016

    Great read! Too many times we give value to what others think instead of doing our own thing.

  • Amber Temerity
    May 24, 2016

    Absolutely agree with this post through and through! I let my children eat what they want (within reason, in that I monitor their sugar intake) and while I try to encourage them to eat new foods, it’s never forced. Life is too short to spend a single moment making my babies cry because they don’t like broccoli.

    • Rica Lewis
      May 24, 2016

      Absolutely! I love that, Amber. Don’t make your babies cry over broccoli! I know that I have grown to love some of the foods I once hated, because our taste buds evolve and change. But the foods my mom forced me to eat are ingrained in my mind as forever YUCKY! lol.

  • Rada (Journous.com)
    May 24, 2016

    It’s funny how rarely we think much about what we do. Most of the things that we do don’t even make sense, but we do them because society dictates it to be so. Interesting concept.

    • Rica Lewis
      May 24, 2016

      So true, Rada. We have to stop and think sometimes because we get caught up in routines. Thanks for commenting!

  • Chrissy
    May 24, 2016

    Loved reading this! We care about what others think way too often, we should only care about what we think is right for us! It took me some time to realize that and apply it to my life, but I got there and I feel so much better!

    • Rica Lewis
      May 24, 2016

      Good for you, Chrissy! Sometimes it takes a while, doesn’t it? Thanks for stopping in. 😀

  • Anna Palmer
    May 24, 2016

    When I have a regular overreaction to something I think back to a question that a teacher once taught me. “Am I running up against a core value…or do I have a mistaken belief that is making me upset.” I was regularly finding myself angry at my sons (then 4 and 5) for leaving their cereal bowls on the counter. When I thought more deeply about it I realized that the story I was telling myself was that the mess was ” a milky little bowl of fuck you” to me. With a bit of perspective I realized that the boys were not sending me a message…they were simply looking ahead to the next thing on their agenda. I didn’t change the rule about cleaning up after we eat, but I changed the story which took the “angry mom” emotion away from it.

    • Rica Lewis
      May 24, 2016

      That’s an awesome example, Anna! I think all of us moms can relate to that. Great way to look at things and change our perspective on them. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Kari
    May 24, 2016

    I LOVE your mantra. That’s something we could all adapt!
    Kari
    http://www.sweetteasweetie.com

  • Priscilla Blossom
    May 24, 2016

    I wholeheartedly agree. My mother didn’t understand this but while my kiddo may be picky at times I’m learning to listen to him rather than listen to my mother’s voice in the back of my head, and it think it’ll be for the best.

    • Rica Lewis
      May 24, 2016

      That’s great, Priscilla! I’m are your meal times will be much more peaceful. 😀 Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  • Liv
    May 24, 2016

    We have a different rule in my house. You have to try everything at least once. There are so many foods I would never have tried because my parents never made me anything adventurous. I’m still a little on the bland side – but I’ve tried so many new foods now that I’ve married my husband. And sometimes I don’t try them again. But sometimes I find something that I absolutely love. And so do the kids.

    • Rica Lewis
      May 25, 2016

      I’ve been pleasantly surprised by trying new things, too. But then again, I don’t have to tell you to “Liv By Surprise,” do I Liv? Ha ha. Thanks for stopping in.

  • Brittany Nikole
    May 24, 2016

    “It is about mindfulness, self-examination, and taking a moment to investigate the things we do daily to understand why we’re doing them.”- Love this! I try to have every action trace back to an intentional thought/decision 🙂

    • Rica Lewis
      May 25, 2016

      What a great way to look at it, Brittany. Thanks for sharing the tidbit about intentional thoughts and decisions. 🙂

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