More than praise, your child needs this
One thing keeps popping in my social media feeds during this first month of the year. I don’t see many resolutions (thank goodness). But I do see people making proclamations of stepping AWAY from what everyone else thinks they *should* be and moving toward being who they really are.
This is something I’m actively working toward as well and something that I believe is huge in coaching. You cannot coach like someone else. You must bring YOUR unique gifts, talents, and strengths to the table.
You HAVE them. Use them!
The other concept that falls in line with valuing yourself for who you are is valuing others for who THEY are rather than what you WANT or EXPECT them to be.
This applies in parenting too! I learned this lesson the hard way.
As a parent, from the time our children are born (or even before), we envision their future. Even if we talk to them and do our best to help them realize THEIR goals, chances are, they will NOT take the path you see all laid out nice and tidy in your head.
This can cause a TON of frustration and conflict if you keep trying to make the path you want a reality.
I can tell you with quite a bit of certainty, that your child will not take the quickest path from point A (where they are now) to point B (where they say they want to be). So stop trying to force it.
You may have seen this picture before…
If it’s true for “people” it’s true for our kids too.
We, as parents, can see the a path that looks like the one on the left…
- do all your homework
- practice hard
- study hard
- get good grades
- choose the right friends
- do extra work on your own time
- stay out of trouble
- graduate from high school with honors
- earn a college scholarship
- study hard
- get good grades
- stay out of trouble
- choose great friends
- graduate from college with honors
- get a good job
- enjoy financial stability and security
- etc, etc, etc
BUT, first of all, there are never any guarantees even if everything happens the way you want and envision.
Second, our children often end up traveling the path that looks like the one on the RIGHT! ACK!
“Why can’t they just do what I say?”
“This would all be SO much easier if they just listened!!!”
Sometimes it seems they’re going in circles. Sometimes it seems like they’re just flat out going backwards.
Know that these phases are all part of THEIR path to success. It’s not the fast track. It’s not the easy path. But quick and easy usually don’t last anyway!
Quick and easy don’t make you stronger, smarter, or more resilient than you were before.
You know this from experiences in your own life.
Trust the process.
Know that it’s okay if your child doesn’t make every “right” choice.
Love them anyway.
When you tie your child’s accomplishments or lack thereof to your value as a parent, you make different choices (and not better ones!).
When you tie what others think to your value as a parent, you make different choices (and not better ones!).
Know that neither their achievements nor their failures are an indication of how good or bad a parent you are. But how you respond as they take all these detours can either help speed up their progress or slow it down.
This seems easy enough, but when your child is making the biggest mistakes of their lives and making choices that cause you more pain than you think you can handle, it can be HARD to love them anyway.
But you’re their parent. If not you, then who?
When you are at your worst, making the biggest mistakes you’ve ever made, how would you want, how would you NEED your most loved ones to treat you?
Do that for your child.
Drop what you think “parents should do.” Stop and really think about what would help you child right now, in this moment. What will help them move forward? What will make them feel like you’re there to support them no matter what?
Never assume it’s obvious to them that you love them. Even when it’s obvious to everyone else because you work your butt off to give the everything you can, don’t assume THEY know.
They don’t know what it’s like to be a parent. They only know what it’s like to have one. They don’t feel your love by what you give them. They feel your love most through your interactions with them…What you do TO or WITH them more than what you do for them.
Do your actions and words show love and support? Or are they harsh and judgemental? Do they show faith and trust or lack of it?
Even if you do what you do “for the right reasons” or with “good intentions” that does NOT matter as much as what your child actually FEELS.
It’s often said, “It’s the thought that counts,” but that usually doesn’t change how you feels. When someone does something hurtful to you “because they love you” that doesn’t change the fact that you feel pain.
What your children feel is not guaranteed by your thoughts or intentions.
There’ve been times when I did something (or didn’t do something) because I believed in my child. I had faith that they were strong enough to handle the situation themselves. I thought I showed and communicated that by staying out of it and trusting them to handle it on their own.
But that’s not what my child felt. They didn’t feel my belief or confidence in them.
All my child felt was that I wasn’t on their side. All they knew was that they mentioned a problem, and instead of helping them out…
I did nothing.
I didn’t move to stand behind them and show I “had their back.” They didn’t feel loved or cared for in that situation. They felt abandoned and alone even though that was no where near my intention.
That’s when I realized, not only must you be mindful of what you do and say, but of HOW your behavior impacts your child. Just as every person is different, every child is different. Each will respond differently in different situations.
It’s your job to get to know them well enough to provide what they NEED, not just do what’s easiest for you.
No, it’s not easy. But who the heck lied and told you parenting would be easy? 😉
Look, we all do the best we can in any given moment, at any given time. And we all make mistakes. Big ones sometimes. We have to live with it. Our children have to live with it.
Don’t expect them to be perfect when you aren’t. Don’t expect them to make every right choice when you don’t.
If you need them to be understanding of your parenting mistakes and of the fact that you’re doing the best, can you not do the same for their growing up mistakes?
Parenting is a learn as you go experience. And the “rules” always seem to be changing. Each child brings something new and different to the table. It sure keeps you on your toes!
For your kids, growing up is the same way. Everything they’re going through and dealing with is as new to them as parenting is to you. I think we all need as much understanding from our most loved ones as we can get! Think about that next time you feel like ranting and raving. Take a deep breath. Is what you’re about to say or do really going to help? Or is it just going to make you feel better in the moment?
At one point, I was willing to do the tough love thing and say, “I don’t care if you like me or not…” A lot of people I know are very tough love oriented. But I wonder if they ever stopped to think about what that really meant? I never did until recently.
Who would you want to listen to?
Someone you feel connected to and unconditionally loved by?
OR someone who makes you feel more badly about yourself every time you make a mistake? Who is only happy with you if you’re doing what they want and disappointed in you and frustrated with you every time you don’t?
Which one are you to your child?
Be honest. Even if it hurts.
What if you valued your relationship with your child over what they achieve or don’t achieve, and they knew it beyond a shadow of a doubt?
What if you saw and treasured the unique gifts and talents THEY already have inside them instead of pushing for what you hoped they’d become?
What if you valued them for who they truly are instead of who you want, or expect, them to be?
They need that from you more than any praise or gift.
You can make the choice to DO this every day, moment by moment.
What would YOU be able to accomplish if someone did this for you? Or what have you accomplished because someone valued you as you are?
It’s so easy to support and love when someone is making all the right decisions, doing all the right things, bringing home all sorts of accomplishments. But what about when they’re not?
The world needs parents who are strong enough to be unwavering for their children, even when it’s hard, and especially when their children struggle. Are you one of them?