I spend a lot of time thinking about Parenting.
More often than not, I’m musing about how I parent and why I parent the way I do. I think about how I can connect with my kids on a deeper level. I often wonder how I can communicate in ways that are meaningful to them and that really make positive ideals and beliefs come alive in their lives.
On good days, I feel like Parenting is my “calling” and on bad days, I just want to give up, crawl into bed and play 1000 levels of Candy Crush. I’ve known since I was a teenager that I wanted to be a parent; in my naivety, I didn’t realize that life was a crapshoot and that there are no guarantees. The dreams I had for my future never included autism, ADHD, anxiety, cancer, loss, trauma, etc; but as I say to my children,
“Life is not fair; but you do get to choose how you act and react to the challenges (and gifts) that come into your life.”
In saying that life is a crapshoot, I’m not hating on my life, at all! My life is filled with beauty and wonder. Yes, I am often exhausted, but I choose to see the beauty and the wonder, and to accept the joy in the sorrow and the struggle. I believe we have seen our share of sorrow and struggle; but I also feel that to the immense depth of grief and sorrow that we allow ourselves to feel, we also get to experience the equivocal amount of joy.
“The walls we build around us to keep out sadness also keep out the joy.” Jim Rohn
This little one has had such huge struggles with anxiety. To see glimpses of him unencumbered by fear brings me SO JOY.
One thing that I think has really helped me, and it’s not limited to parenting, is to identify my goals.
My supreme goal as a parent, is to raise these children into respectful, hard working , compassionate, members of society. I want them to be confident in who they are, to know that they have a voice. It’s important to me that they know the importance of boundaries; and that they know how to set, enforce and protect their boundaries. I want them to think critically. I want them to be able to make choices, weigh the consequences; and, be willing to accept the consequences, regardless of whether they are positive or negative.
Having a clear goal, makes it easier to weigh in on what’s important, what’s unimportant and what’s detrimental. It also challenges me to ask how any particular issue applies to the goals that I’m working towards.
My parenting goals are generalized goals that give me a framework to help both me and my children. Each of my children are so unique and I’m not trying to raise carbon copy robots; but I am hoping to raise decent human beings that are courageous, respectful, compassionate, industrious, rational, creative dreamers. I don’t believe that this is too much to ask.
The practical application of this, looks different for each child, but the overall goal is the same.
So, how does this help me?
If I had to narrow it all down and choose one key word or goal, it would be respect.
If my children grow up to be respectful adults, all the supporting goals should fall in line. In my mind, being respectful of yourself, to others, to the world around you, and to those in authority over or under you, will set you up for success. I come back to the virtue of respect, daily.
I believe that one of the biggest ways that children learn is by watching and modelling.
Any parent of a 2 year old knows that you’ve got to watch what you say in front of your kids, because they will parrot back what they hear. We are our kids biggest role models and influencers. They are learning from us.
They are listening to what we say.
They are listening to HOW we say it, even more so.
They are watching how we act and react…..and not only with the world but with them.
From our interactions with them, they are learning how to interact with people who have authority and with people who are under authority.
The way I see it, if my goal is to raise respectful human beings, then I must also model respect. Not just in front of them, but to them.
The lessons they will learn from how I act and communicate with them, have a life long impact.
I don’t believe that my role in my children’s life is to force them to follow rules, or to bend or break their spirit.
I do believe that you can be respectful and communicate needs, desires, and differing opinions.
I do believe you can train and guide while showing respect.
I do believe that children are as deserving of respect as adults are.
I do believe that children need MANY opportunities to practice being respectful, with the onus on us as adults, to understand that it’s going to take years to master the skill.
I do believe that children, like adults, want to do their best in most situations. In tough situations, what we often deem as “not enough”, may be, in fact “their best” at that moment. Respecting where they are at, allows them safe space and an opportunity to be self aware and vulnerable without shame…..all these things are important for self-respect to grow.
I do believe that relationship is more important than “being right.” Being human, I mess up often and I have no fear admitting that to my children, because, once again, I’m modelling to them the value of relationship, vulnerability and most importantly respect.
The link above is to another post I wrote on authority and respect.
I haven’t always parented based on respect, or been clear on what my goals were. It’s taken me 20+ years of parenting to get here and I, by no means, am perfect at this “practise.” I will say that having a goal and a clear focus makes it easier to parent, especially in the “heat of the moment”.
Daily, purposeful practise of the virtue of respect allows it to become second nature for both us and our children. There is no “losing” in being respectful…….only gaining.
Respect for ourselves guides our morals, Respect for others guides our manners.