As part of a writing project, I recently posted a question on my Facebook page asking people to share with me what is their most challenging parenting dilemma. I received about a dozen responses, and just as many different answers. Not surprisingly, I could identify with every one of the areas mentioned: technology, social media, peer pressure, sibling rivalry, being tuned out, co-parenting, issues resulting from both parents having differing viewpoints (or enthusiasm) about religion, and last (but certainly not least) watching your child make a mistake and feeling like there is nothing you can do to fix or stop the situation they have created.
All of these issues cause varying degrees of worry, anxiety, and in some cases, sleepless nights. I know this because I have been, and sometimes continue to be, right there myself.
This is because most moms and dads want what's best for their kids. We don't want them to make the same mistakes we made, and [in many cases] we want them to have a "better life" than we did growing up. We want our kids to have happy childhoods and develop into productive, contributing members of society.
Which is exactly why we do the best we can to love, nuture, and protect our children.
But, what if I told you I thought most parents were raising their kids UNCONSCIOUSLY.
Before you get too defensive, let me add I think we would agree much of our parenting skill comes from the way we were raised. Often, without thinking, we behave in the same manner our parents did...whether it is in regards to discipline measures, what meals we prepare and how we enjoy them, or even how we spend our family time. Unless we become more aware of what we are doing and saying (that is, to think through a situation and take a different course of action than what might come naturally), we are going to default to what we experienced/learned growing up because that is all we really know how to do.
How many times have you said to yourself, "I sound just like my mother [father]!" Tom has compared me to my mom more than I'd like to admit, and of course there are the moments when I say to him, "Don't be so Skippy!" (His dad's name, of course.)
We can learn a lot about ourselves and our parenting if we take some time to reflect on our own childhood, specifically looking at how our parents raised us. Think about why they said and did the things they did, and how that may be impacting the parent you are today.
What were the important lessons they instilled in you? Were there areas in which they fell short? How can you do differently to affect a healthier outcome for your own children?
Here is an example from my own upbringing and how I intentionally decided to parent differently.
When I was a freshman in college (wayyyyy back in the late 80s), I had a boyfriend my dad did not care for. This guy and I carried on a very intense long distance relationship, which resulted in my having to tell my parents shortly after winter break I was pregnant. The news did not go over well with my dad.
Which is not at all surprising.
However, when I needed direction and understanding the most, my dad chose to respond to my pregnancy by giving me a series of ultimatums which, in his mind, would steer me away from what he felt would be a certain and fast track to nowhere. And while I can look back on that time in our relationship and understand his attitude was, to an extent, motivated by his love for me, the course he chose to take in the situation left me feeling abandoned when what I really needed was some compassion.
As emotionally challenging as my teenage pregnancy was (for both of my parents and for myself), ultimately I listened to my own heart and chose to raise my son (who is now twenty-seven and a wonderful human being).
Fast forward to same son's challenges with alcohol addiction during his freshman year of college (Coincidence? I think not.), I had the opportunity, when he was in crisis, to make different choices about how I handled his situation as his parent.
While every ounce of me wanted to control and dictate the course and outcome of the potential train wreck I was sure was waiting to happen, I consciously chose to embrace the problem at hand and walk with him side-by-side through it. I did not give up on him, and I did not coddle him. I was the support and encouragement and voice of love that he needed at the time to get through a very difficult challenge in his life.
This is a clear example of conscious parenting.
So, my question for you today is this: What is your most challenging parenting dilemma? Why is it such a challenge? What from your own upbringing could be contributing to the dynamics, and how might changing your approach create a different result?
The key to a life with more inner peace is to live in the present moment, but there is nothing wrong (in fact, it can be very, very helpful) to look back and recognize how your life experience has impacted the way you are conducting yourself right now.
I would so love to hear from you on this topic! Please post a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part 2 of We are not fully responsible for how our kids turn out will focus on how our children can be the source to helping us become our best selves, if we allow them to be!