Excerpt from What Kids Want -And Need- From Parents
From Chapter 2: Parenting Basics
While nature doesn’t tell us what our responsibilities are in raising children, our success depends upon how well we meet them. So what are they?
Prepare Children for Life’s Challenges
Life is difficult. We need to prepare our children for success and failure, to value perseverance, struggle, and hard work as an integral part of a meaningful life.
Parents would do well to consider the lesson of the cocoon. The caterpillar must develop wings strong enough to break out of the cocoon; these wings are then strong enough to fly. Cut open the cocoon to eliminate the struggle, and the caterpillar will simply die.
The same lesson applies to humans. It is our job as parents to make sure that our children are challenged and are faced with adversity, obstacles, and even failure, along with advantages, support, fun, and success. This wider and deeper preparation will lead to a genuine sense of confidence and enthusiasm for life.
The Parent Role
We know nature has given us as parents a distinct responsibility with children—prepare them for life. Further, we understand we have a distinct time frame—prepare them by the end of their adolescence, roughly age 19.
We all know the powerful influence parents have on children’s lives and research confirms it. Infants begin seeking our love from birth by trying to imitate us, a process that continues through childhood. They not only know they need us for survival, but as they grow, they realize the quality of their lives depends upon us.
If we prepare our kids to accept the primary responsibility for their lives at roughly age nineteen, then we can begin to step back into a rewarding consultant role for the rest of their lives. We will always be the most influential people in our kids’ lives; if we are able to let go of primary responsibility when ours are about nineteen, we will then be able to become a valuable supportive—rather than a restraining—force in their adult lives.
So perhaps a good model for us to follow as parents is that of a guide on a long, challenging journey.
Nothing should be allowed to compromise this parenting role because it will create insecurity at a deeper level within the kids. When this parent-as-guide role is well established and trusted by the kids, productive and close relationships within the family will be created. It might help parents to visualize having two relationships with their kids; first, that of a guide who has the responsibility to steer the children through the long, challenging journey of childhood and adolescence, most of which is beyond their understanding; and second that as a member and leader of a close, fun-loving family. But always make the first the top priority.
If we parents realized how deeply we actually influence our children’s lives, we would work much harder to improve ourselves. As humans we are imperfect people, and while our children from birth imitate our good qualities and values, they imitate our negative patterns as well.
We all have a dark side that can be triggered by a word, mood, event, etc. When our dark side controls us, we are not at our best, and certainly don’t want our children imitating us. So we need to recognize when we are in this pattern and what triggers it. We need to learn how to withdraw from our children and others during these times and what steps we need to take to reenter our normal and positive side.
To understand why we have a dark side consider how most of us were raised to high expectations, which are essential to helping us accomplish what we hope to achieve in life. But high expectations always create a tension within us of what we have yet to achieve, and the person we have yet to become. While this tension normally creates a powerful energy to help us improve and progress, we are human, and there are moments when the tension gets to us and we give in to our imperfections.
It is the expression of these imperfections that undermine our best, and then by imitation, our children’s best. This book will help parents understand, identify and address these imperfections passed down to them by their parents. This work is critical in developing the parent-child bond, and establishing the parent as a mentor.
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