How it started ...
Long ago, early in my teaching career, before having my own children, filled with blissful dreams of pretty nurseries, adorable family photos, naïve assumptions about discipline, I was slightly nervous about raising a human but believed parenthood would be an adventure I could conquer.
I told myself ...
I will never yell.
I will be consistent.
MY children won’t say no to me.
MY kids will not talk back.
MY children will earn good grades.
MY kids will keep their rooms clean.
Sounds great, right?
How it went ...
It surprised me when my imagined children became real because they were nothing like I had imagined.
In hindsight, my formula relied heavily on controlling my kids with little focus on changing MY parenting. Because THEY were the problem. They needed training and taming. I was fine.
It sounds so arrogant now. I’m not blaming them, but Authoritarian style “experts” influenced me to require my children’s obedience, with little concern for their feelings.
I wasn’t overly strict, but I expected my children to conform to my expectations without considering their emotional needs. I thought responding empathetically would encourage inappropriate behavior and even bigger emotions, such as tantrums and outbursts.
I now know research shows children with authoritarian parents exhibit more behavior problems, are less resourceful, and struggle with social skills.
Those characteristics are the exact opposite of what I want for my children. My deepest desire is for my children to be happy, healthy, and confident in their own skin.
How it's going ...
I now know the only person I can, or should, change is me. Coaching, instead of controlling, my children allows them to be who they are instead of who I think they should be.
Sometimes I still wrestle with the guilt of having been too harsh, indifferent, and unsympathetic. However, rehearsing and rehashing guilt isn’t productive.
Instead, I’m becoming the kind of parent who…
Validates my children’s emotions without judgment.
Believes in my kid’s ability to find their own way through challenges without my help.
Withholds advice unless asked.
Views my children’s successes and failures as their own and not a reflection of my parenting.
Sits with my children’s pain without trying to fix it for them.
I want to love my children unconditionally, show up in all the best ways, and be proud of my kids for their wins and losses.
I want to be a person my children trust and admire.
Despite how it started, parenting is going well. I love spending time with my adult children: And I think they enjoy spending time with me. We talk about all the things, we laugh, and solve the world’s problems.
What could be better than that?
Trading fairytale dreams of who I thought my kids should have been, for a realistic understanding of who I should be as a parent, is the best choice I ever made.
What kind of parent do you want to be?