Parents Guide Children
They Neither Design Them
Nor Own Them
When writing about parenting, it isn’t overstepping to assume that every parent wants the best for their children and plans to do everything in their power to make sure their kids have the best chance in life.
Any other attitude is the exception. Most new parents really care. You can see it in their faces. You can hear in their voices.
But the “Caring” thing makes us a bit vulnerable. It sets us and the kids up for a big fail. There are several mistakes induced by misplaced caring.
Mistake: Entertaining The Wrong Expectations
Because we care, we expect our children to succeed. That isn’t wrong to do but it is easy to over cook the idea.
We visualize their future. We even give the image detail: not just a doctor, we imagine, but the best doctor. A world class “whatever.”
Not very realistic. Only one person at a time can be the best at anything so expecting this for your child puts a lot of pressure on him or her and you.
Wanting to be the best parent possible is a valid aspiration. Expecting your child to be the absolute best at the particular occupation you choose is nothing but pure unwarranted presumption.
Even if this expectation was rational, it’s a mistake to think any parent could guarantee it.
Mistake: Assuming You Know What You’re Doing
Every new parent is doing something they’ve never done before, molding the life of another person, a child, and they are determined to do a good job. The only example they have to follow are the parents who raised them, that is, if they had parents, and it may not be much to go on.
Following your parents’ example may be a good thing or a bad thing but it’s never an absolute thing. Even with “great” parents you want to think twice before falling in step with their philosophy. Acting on auto isn’t smart. Thinking before you act is.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water but make sure you know the difference between the two. Good intentions and high enthusiasm don’t guarantee good parenting. Assume nothing. Think every step of the way. Never stop being humble and you have a better chance of succeeding.
Mistake: Asking The Wrong Questions
The wise parent starts by investigating and asking questions:
What does it really mean to “parent” my children? What must I give or do? How must I direct my children to make sure the desired outcome is achieved?
Those questions may sound familiar. We all ask them but are they the right ones to ask?
It may not be immediately obvious but there is one big problem with all of these questions. They are too narrowly focused to be realistic. Parents aren’t the only factors. They influence the outcome but they don’t control it and the proof is history.
In many cases children do exactly what the parent didn’t expect. Remember this:
- Talent determines what a child is able to do.
- Interest determines what a child wants to do.
- Opportunity determines the viability of the child’s choices at any given moment.
- Persistence in spite of setbacks determines a child’s eventual success.
- Character is what makes that possible.
Parents control none of these things, other than helping the child develop character. They don’t own the child. They didn’t design the child. The parent’s only responsibility is to help the child become responsible.
The parent can’t even demand the child love them. It’s really up to the child and if forced it really isn’t love. The answers to a child’s life are deep within the child. Acknowledging them is affirming. Your kids will love you for it.
Mistake: Thinking Parental Flaws Are Automatically Passed On
Assuming too big a part in the outcome of your child’s future is one mistake. Assuming your bad example is indelibly imprinted on your children is another.
Psychologists say children of abusers become abusers but how often is that really true? Does every abused child abuse? I don’t think so.
If we really believed that, if we carried that idea to its logical end, we would investigate every child of every thief to make sure the children aren’t thieves also. We don’t and for a very good reason. Offspring do not automatically repeat the parents flaws.
Parents are important, yes. They have a vantage point that enables them to give the greatest input, yes. But the result isn’t entirely up to parents!
No one can predict the outcome of any child’s life based only on the parents or the home they provide. Some kids grow up in the presence of excess and abuse but never adopt these bad qualities. My two sisters and I are examples. My father was a heavy drinker and my mother was alcoholic, it literally killed her, but other than a very occasional swig, we never touched the stuff.
I was the designated driver for all my under-age-drinking high school buddies. They drank, I drove, because I wasn’t interested.
What we saw. What we lived with, we never absorbed and that is a good thing. Your kids will not always become you, thankfully.
That, of course, doesn’t mean parents don’t matter. They do but I mention this so parents can relax a little. You will make mistakes and your kids, because children are enormously resilient, will get beyond it without harm.
Just in case, however, if you make some insulting, out of line remark in the heat of the moment, in front of or worse, to your kids, admit you were wrong and apologize. By that, they learn that mistakes don’t define us.
Mistake: Not Trusting Your Child’s Good Intentions
I always told my children that trust was earned, it can’t be given, and that is true but only to a point.
Parents must learn to trust the natural inborn desire of their children to do the smart thing. People make bad choices occasionally, sometimes just for the fun of it, but they don’t always adopt the bad choices they make. They also make poor choices by mistake and learn from those too, that is, if we don’t become overly judgmental of their intentions.
Bad choices provide experience. They help us learn what works and what doesn’t. Bad choices in the early years don’t always trigger a trend. Telling one lie doesn’t a pathological liar make.
Parents aren’t the only ones who want children to do well. Children want this too. Assuming the worst of your kids is one way to say “I don’t believe in you.”
Don’t let that happen. Be a good parent. Trust your child’s good intentions.