“They are so sweet at that age.”

I heard that at least three times daily from every Velcro-sandaled grandma within a two-mile radius. Clearly, these grannies missed my son enjoying a handful of dog food while my daughter perfected his Sharpie-marker mustache. Life was busy, gooey, glittery, chaotic and always exhausting. Regardless of how challenging little people might be, we’ll do anything for those grumpy gremlins and messy trolls.

Every birthday, as my kids gather air to blow out their birthday candles (testing their age vs. wind theory), I have learned to appreciate the unique gifts they have given me each year. I’m not referring to the carefully clay-molded armadillo; I’m referring to their emotional intelligence and thoughtful navigation through difficult situations. However, without individual acceptance toward their differences and feelings, kids will be left learning to rely on others for problem-solving, validation and self-worth.

Kids need to be able to express themselves without the fear of being scolded with, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” or even worse, “Why did you do that?” Being forcedto give an explanation, particularly in unknown territory, challenges their decision-making as well as their self-confidence.

I remember my grandma directing attention to my flaws and belittling my decisions even though she said it was “for your own damn good.” Feeling inadequate or singled out for making mistakes can produce shame, people-pleasing tendencies and destructive behavior. If anything, children need to feel accepted and supported for their differences and awarded for reasons other than complying with rules or “being good.”

Coercing an individual to create a logical explanation to appease someone else leads to an inauthentic connection. Some books emphasize the importance of listening and avoiding judgments when children are experiencing stressors. I have discovered children are more fearful of saying the wrong thing than the consequences of lying. In other words, children would rather just tell them want they want to hear.

Teaching children confidence and tools to handle stressful situations is extremely difficult. I still struggle with self-doubt when making tough decisions. However, I try to encourage kids to practice the most important skills for problem-solving: trust your intuition, take action, make amends and create space for others to learn their own lessons. Every day I practice valuing my individuality and honoring my self-worth. Without self-acceptance, I struggle to be emotionally present for loved ones and myself. When I experience self-doubt, I need to remind myself that my instincts are more important than another person’s expectations of how they think I should act, speak or behave.

Control is an idealistic and unrealistic view of thinking your actions, and words will produce a desired outcome. I’m not saying relax, think rainbows, enjoy a beer and watch the drama unfold. I’m referring to control-freaks and their neuroticism to repeatedly revise their imaginary “I’m the master of everything” book.

This book includes riveting, expert-rich tidbits for gaining control (or perceived control) and dominance. For example, Chapter 4: Troubleshooting: How to Coerce a Person to “Act Accordingly” and Comply at Your Will. Chapter 5: How to Use Manipulation and Smear Tactics (While Enhancing Your Image) to Get What You Want From Other People. Chapter 6: How to Transform a Loved One or Co-worker into a Mind-Reading Expert—Training Them to Fulfill Your Needs (Without Even Asking!).

Controlling people utilize these methods because they think it’s acceptable to supervise someone else’s life. Bringing attention to other’s faults allows them to avoid their own crap.

Even though I’m no “He-Man” or “Master of the Universe” (or any universe), I am the supervisor in my life. I make decisions based on my instincts and values. I’m not afraid to examine my shortcomings or accept my mistakes. Mistakes are the best way to learn independent thinking and dragon-slaying confidence. Without the lessons, life is just a conveyor belt dishing out the same lackluster sugar cookies. In fact, I’m going to enjoy some sugar cookies this week in honor of those control freaks who crave a predictable cookie. However, I like to remind myself to go ahead and screw up the frosting. I can always correct with sprinkles later.

Shawna Ritter (aka Honey Guns), local hairapist, blogger and derby girl, has lived in Flagstaff for over 25 years. She graduated from NAU in 2000. Ritter can be sighted running her two boxers downtown or taking out speed walkers on her roller skates. Want more? Visit her blog at www.thesaucysuperfox.com for additional stories and shenanigans.