Last week I wrote to you about one of the big mistakes we can avoid as parents not letting out kids fail. This week I'm writing about another one, projecting ourselves onto our children. This can happen in two ways. First, we may want our children to be exactly like we are, to follow in our footsteps. The second and opposite way is when we hope our children will turn out differently than we did, to avoid our disappointments. Either way we are projecting ourselves onto our children. And either way we put pressure on them to be someone they are not. Both of these can cause our children to be motivated not by their own gifts or identity but by ours. That's never a healthy situation. Additionally, because both parent and child are acting out of wrong motives, their relationship becomes strained.
So how do we change this? Number one is to model a healthy identity ourselves. Never underestimate the power of the example we set. The attitudes our children develop are more caught then taught. Our children don't do what we say, they do what they see us do. We must make sure they know our love for them is unconditional. We must express our love regardless of whether they follow in our footsteps.
Please understand, it's okay, even desirable, to tell stories about what we did when we were growing up. Children learn from this. What I'm saying is we should not expect our children to be exactly as we were.
Model a healthy transition. When our children are very young, they need a lot of supervision and close direction. As they grow older they can begin to make more of their own decisions. How do we know if we are letting them control an age appropriate number of decisions? A good guide is to remember that they need to be "ready to ship" by 18. They transition from making no decisions at birth to all decisions at 18. That's when we move to the consultant role. If I'm letting them make major decisions when they are only 12, they are likely to make wrong ones with lifelong consequences. Likewise, if I'm making all their decisions when they are 16, they are going to have a difficult transition to adulthood. Consider what decisions they are making now, and put those decisions on a line graph from now (current age) to 18. By this we'll know if they are on track.
There is no perfect gauge of the maturity process. We use our God given judgment and do the best we can with the children He has placed in our care.
Blessings on your role as a parent,
Tim Miesner, Principal