We all love our kids right? To the moon and back, one hundred thousand times over. As much as we love them (and oh, how we love them), sometimes (just sometimes) we can struggle to like them.
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The dream was cast way back, when you waved that little blue strip in front of the mirror and set about wondering who was about to burst into your life. They could be anything they liked. That was long as they were sunny, savvy, smart, successful, and self-assured.
Instead, the small person who burst into your life came out kind of different. They arrived wired as a strong-willed, shy, snippy, stubborn little ratbag with all the insight needed to ignite your fuse. In addition to that, life served up all of it’s unpredictable twists and turns. There was no real reprieve to find the grace to deal with your little tiger.
Now, you wake up every morning with new resolve to shake off your struggle and to try even harder to be a great parent. Each day your child wakes up with new resolve to complain about everything, pick fights with their siblings, and embarrass you in public.
For those days when you feel like throwing it in, please don’t, because your little person needs you to hold on tight while they get set up for life. Even when you don’t like your child, you still have what it takes to love them.
Let them be themselves
There are plenty of things you do get to choose as a parent. You get to choose your child’s name, what you give them to eat and where you take them. Much to the disappointment of most parents, there are way more things that you don’t get to choose. You don’t get to choose who your child plays with at school. You also don’t get to choose what they’ll eat from their lunch box, or what they really think about you. None of us get to choose our child’s personality, their thoughts, their feelings, or their decisions.
Recognising that your child is completely unique and separate to you is like stating the obvious, but sometimes it’s the obvious that we lose sight of. It can be tempting to mould your child into a new and improved version of yourself. Instead, take a step back and try to genuinely approve of their unique personality. When you do that, you give your child the freedom to be themselves.
Embracing the child you have, instead of lamenting the one you don’t have, is one of the most liberating and life-giving things you can do for your child, for you, and your relationship.
Let them mess up
None of us can be blamed for wanting success for our kids. Success might look like great friends, grades, talents, certificates at prize giving, or making the team. This is why when we see our kids bump head first into failure in the form of rejection from friends, failed grades, being dropped from a team, or doing dumb things to be popular, it hurts. It really hurts. We crave seeing their joy and enthusiasm. It’s distressing to see their tears, failures and frustrations. No parent wants to see their kids suffer, but protecting them from suffering doesn’t help them either.
We’ve got to be prepared to embrace their failures and frustrations. In doing this, we’re teaching our kids that failure is a very ordinary and normal part of life. If we’re open about our own failure and can stand beside our kids in theirs, we offer them the unconditional acceptance they need to pick themselves up and try again.
Let them be imperfect
Your child doesn’t need fixing. You don’t need to turn them from shy to sociable, from uncompetitive into competitive, from quiet to popular, from struggling to soaring, or from grizzly to happy. It’s not your job to improve your child. It’s your job to equip them with the love and acceptance they need to step confidently into their future.
Great parenting isn’t so much about launching perfectly formed well rounded humans, but giving kids the secure platform they need to make their own mistakes. Your job is to give them the secure platform they need to find their unique talent, develop their character and their confidence, and to support them to make great choices.
Let them make decisions
With all the knowledge and experience that we’ve acquired, we could save our kids a whole lot of hardship if they’d just listen to us. Unfortunately for us, our kids are often determined to ignore our wisdom and to make their own way in the world.
It’s not your job to show your child how to avoid all falls, but to hold their hand as they take the leap. When we’re available to debrief about what they’ve learnt without lectures of judgement, we give our kids what they need to get back out there with a little more wisdom of their own.
Let your child teach you
This parenting business isn’t rocket science, even though a lot of the time it can feel like it is. You can actually let your child teach you about what they really need from you. If you’re willing to listen, they’ll most likely tell you that what they really need from you is a listening ear. They need encouragement to be themselves. They need unconditional acceptance for when they fail or make mistakes, and the chance to learn their own lessons. Your child needs support for the tough road ahead.
Next time you feel the need to correct, explain or lecture, take a deep breath. Then, turn and say to them, ‘I’m here and I’m listening’.