Parenting is a learn-as-you-go job.
Your heart’s in the right place in nearly every decision you make, but that doesn’t make you (or anyone else) perfect. For instance, when it comes to giving your child freedom, you don’t mean to be overly protective or controlling, but you just may be. Especially if you remember how much you wished your own parents helped you find your way through life. For most of us who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, parenting was very hands-off, and in retrospect, we often felt very alone in the world.
Deep down, your goal for your kids is simple. You want to ensure that your child turns out somewhat like you (well… maybe your better parts) and experiences happiness.
There are lots of reasons parents do things that might border on controlling, like helicopter parenting and in extreme cases, slightly manipulative behavior, in order to create an outcome we want rather than what our kids want.
But what parent doesn’t do what they do out of love?
Here’s the thing: You can love and guide your kids without trying to control who they are.
You’ll need to accept that sometimes, they’re going to be people you didn’t plan on them being — and sometimes (especially with teens!) you may not like who they are… at least temporarily.
One helpful source I found for advice on accepting people you love for exactly who they are was in Andrea Miller’s fantastic book Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love. While the book is primarily about romantic relationships, the advice works for parents too because it’s about finding peace within yourself by no longer attempting to control what others choose to do.
So how do we balance our desire as parents to protect our kids and offer them the best outcome possible — while letting them become the people they were destined to be all on their own?
We asked our YT Experts to help guide parents to share with us why it’s important to allow your child to learn on their own, find their own direction and accept their life choices — and why it’s so hard to do so.
They provided us with nine amazingly insightful pieces of insight into why kids need to learn from experience and direct their own lives, and how to balance that with loving protection (and a healthy portion of radical acceptance).
1. Experience is the best teacher
- “They have their own path. Sure, they need guidance and help, but they are not mini-mes here to follow in your footsteps or fulfill your own unfulfilled life. Curiosity about who they truly are — and helping them understand how to better themselves — will not only bring you closer, it will help them have more satisfying lives and be more successful at whatever they pursue.
- “They are not little adults. Their brains are developing until mid- to late 20s, and some of the things we desperately wish they would figure out (like delaying gratification, thinking before they act or having empathy and understanding) just take time. And honestly, there is nothing you can do but wait for them to grow up and love and appreciate them along the way.
- “Love never fails. It’s all any of us really want, whatever age we are. In X years, do you want to be in close relationship with your children? Then be today and give today the one and only thing we want from every person (and most definitely from the people who raise us): Love. And love means teaching boundaries, sharing our wisdom, being warm and accepting, challenging them sometimes and so much more. In fact, we have to learn what love is ourselves each day.”
Ann Betz and Ursula Pottinga are the co-founders of BEabove Leadership. They have devoted their lives to understanding the complexities of love and consciousness, including researching the scientific underpinnings of what makes us human — and what can help us transform. Sign up for their Seven Levels Human Relationships course for neuroscience-based tools for bringing more love and connection to all your relationships.
2. Learning self-awareness builds confidence
“As parents, the greatest gift we can give our children is a safe space to explore their own brilliant nature and the freedom to follow their heart.
“The No. 1 regret on our deathbeds is not having the courage to live a life true to ourselves and settling instead for a life others expected of us. Palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware shared this insight in her international bestseller the Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.
“Love means giving up what we think will make our child happy or successful by imposing our expectations of what we want and allowing them to choose what speaks to their soul. When you can give this kind of acceptance, the unconditional love you truly desire comes pouring back. It’s your child’s soul thanking you for letting their own light shine.”
Carolyn Hidalgo is a spiritual life coach with a vision of living judgment-free for happy, healthy relationships. Pick up her free judgment-free guide at www.carolynhidalgo.com to discover the joy and freedom of living true to yourself in all your relationships.
3. Letting go with love helps them learn how to be happy with who they are
“If you treat your children as an extension of yourself, they will without fail wake up one day and resent you for what they may have missed. Instead, we must allow them to shape their own world by teaching them that they are in charge of the life they are creating.
“When you accept your children for who they truly are, they will still want to be around you when they have flown the nest.
“Our kids are part of a different generation and trying to mold them into what we think is best is a recipe for disaster. We can instill values, lead by example, encourage, challenge and love, but we should not try to control their destiny.”
4. By letting them make mistakes under your guidance, you instill trust
“When parents try to make their kids be someone they’re not, they’re unwittingly telling them that who they are isn’t good enough.
“Although parents often do this out of love, believing they can mold their kids into a more successful adult, they’re crushing their child’s ability to fully explore who they are (along with their child’s natural-born creativity) and are undermining their child’s self-confidence. And these are key ingredients to being successful in life.
“What parents should keep in mind is that success comes in many flavors (much like people), and their kids will find their best version of success only if done their way — based on who they are (and not who their parents want them to be).”
Heather Moulder is a career and life coach who specializes in helping working moms have both a successful career and happy home life (and have real work-life balance) by helping them gain a deep understanding of who they are and what they really want — and design their life around that. If you’re struggling with how to build and maintain a successful career while also having a happy personal life, schedule a free one-hour consultation with Moulder on her website.
5. Testing the truths of life under your protection gives you a chance to teach with depth
“Your child is not trying to push your buttons! More than anything, your child wants to please you and shine in your eyes. With a slight twist of the lens, sincere acceptance and a deep connection that feeds both of you at a soul-satisfying level can be your norm, whether your child is 5 or 25.”
Leeza Steindorf is the award-winning author of Connected Parent, Empowered Child: Five Keys to Raising Happy, Confident, Responsible Kids. She is a life and parenting coach, speaker and transformational trainer. Find out more about Steindorf and get her free webinar Genius of NonJudgment on her website, www.CoreSuccess.com.
6. You & your child are connected, but not enmeshed
“It’s important to recognize the difference between caring for our kids versus trying to fix our kids. Yes, as parents we ought to honor our roles of guiding our kids to help them navigate the ways of the world. Naturally, this will involve certain necessary rules and expectations.
“At the same time, we need to recognize that our kids will have their own interpretations of life, and unless such ideas are causing harm to themselves or others, we need to give our children enough space to experience the world without the filter of parental biases.
“Burdening our children with our own biases before they’ve had the chance to develop their own perspectives inhibits growth. Part of the growth process involves a little failure and pain — if we take these challenges away from our children in an effort to fix them or set them straight the way we want, we keep our kids from understanding and absorbing some of life’s most valuable lessons.”
Nina Cashman is a PCC-credentialed executive leadership and career coach, founder of Pave Your Way and lead trainer for the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. You can follow her blog on YourTango or her visit her website, paveyourway.com.
7. There’s always room to grow, so grow together
“Your kids today are as you used to be — before your evolution into who you are now. As human beings, we never arrive because we never stop evolving until we are ready to depart for the next leg of our journey. They too will evolve as you cheer them on, so accept them for who they are so they can evolve into their best selves.”
8. Parents who allow their children to take risks are teaching the gift of unconditional love in real time
“Accepting your children for who they are is a precious gift you give to yourself, your children and the world around them. When we expect our children to fulfill our dreams, we impose limits on the full expression of who they are; yet there can be no greater joy as a parent than watching your child do or create something you would never have dreamed of. Allowing our children to be true to themselves gives them the freedom to express the wonderful uniqueness they have been born to offer to the world.”
9. Your child’s self-love will deepen, & their love for you will too
“Even though you have their best interests at heart, your efforts to shape your children into who you think they should [be] invalidates their true self. They begin to believe that the core of who they are is wrong, broken or defective, which instills self-doubt and a tendency to defer to the judgments or opinions of others. By accepting them as they are, you are helping them to develop the self-confidence that will allow them to shine.”
Originally published on YourTango.