I’m sure my kids think all their decisions are great (mine sometimes suck too so – pot/kettle here) but being a parent and watching our kids make some not-so-great decisions is difficult. I’m guessing I’m not the only one with this issue.
I remember when one of my guys was in lower school, he found some candy on the ground at school and picked it up and put it in his pocket. He figured it was lost. The school thought he was taking something that was not his. While I thought the whole freaking thing was a bit overblown by the school (it was a Starburst!), I still felt bad and my first instinct was to blame or question myself:
- Would this have happened if I’d been a better parent?
- Or had been more focused on them or talked with them more?
- Would this have happened if I wasn’t divorced?
- What about if I had been a stay-at-home parent?
- What if we had more money. Money was tight at that time and maybe he knew it and felt like he just wanted something we didn’t have?
I get the lesson that the school was trying to make here but what I mostly recall was really looking at myself to find the reason for what happened. Over the course of their lives, I’ve done that again and again, thinking I have some part in the bad decisions they make (of course, why not take the credit for the good freaking decisions they make?!)
Look, we all want what’s best for our kids. I remember buying so many parenting books. They all promised to show me new ways to raise my kids. But, the one theme in all the books which was, if you try XYZ, that will help your parenting. In other words, you, the parent, held the key.
Yet, the science (which is a freaking political word now!) supports a totally different and empowering message, which is – it’s not all about you, the parent. In fact, trying to predict how a child will turn out or make decisions is like trying to predict which way a butterfly will fly when you walk up to it! Our kids are individuals with their own brains and their own experiences.
So, if that’s the case, then we can’t (and should not) blame ourselves for those not-so-great decisions or directions our kids take (easier said than done!).
Now, my kids are making bigger and bigger decisions and I don’t agree with all of them. But, I’ve been working on new ways to manage not only my own emotions, but also to help them in this new stage (the stage where they’re “smarter” (their view :)) than me!):
- Keep the lines of communication open. I really try to make every effort to be open and transparent with my kids. Many of you know me as that kind of person and I try to keep the same openness with them. I think they know they can come to me with anything. Even the shit I will be pissed about. Nothing is too big for us as a team.
- Understand their point of view. I also want to understand their point of view, as best I can. I’m not perfect and don’t live in their shoes. But I try to help them think of their options. Because, I believe there are always options, including not doing anything when you feel compelled to do something. That’s often fear talking and understanding how to sit and wait with fear is an acquired skill.
- Don’t be afraid to say if you think they’re wrong. I think it is important to let your kids know when you think they need to make a different decision or if they have made decision that was not a good one. My kids know I will speak my mind, but that I do it out of love. Don’t be afraid to show them that you have strong views. It will help them do the same thing when they are a parent. And, I believe if you’ve set the framework, they will respect you (but may not be happy in the moment!) in the long run.
My kids know the things I worry about and they also know when I think they’re going too far one way or another. But I’m also learning to give them space to grow, take risks and make (good and not-so-good) decisions of their own. We are learning together. Two steps forward. One (sometimes big and sometimes me!) step back!
Have a great day everyone!