What do you want for your child?
What do you want their life to be like in five years?
What do you want their mental state to be like in ten years?
How about when they’re your age?
How are we reflecting that desire in our parenting today, right now?
As busy parents we often lose sight of the big picture when signing our kids up for teams or activities or looking at their grades: What do we really want for our child? When I meet with parents, I hear two reasons as to why they can’t parent as effectively as they want. First, how stressed and busy they are. How they have no time for meal planning, dates with their mate, or cleaning let alone time to reflect on their parenting. I hear you and I’ve been there. I will not be addressing this concern in this blog as I have in many past blogs. (Links here, here and here) and/or sign up for my 10 Day Conscious Living Cleanse. It costs less than a coffee a day, can be done from your couch (or car while waiting for a carpool pickup), and once purchased, you can access it to re-do or re-watch pieces anytime. What will you gain? Awareness of how to bring more calm to your life, tools to de-stress, motivation and inspiration.
Today’s blog will focus on the second issue facing parents, and main roadblock to effective parenting: FEAR. How afraid they are that their kids may suffer, that their kids may fail, that their kids may experience difficulties with friends, with school, or with sports. Of course, we don’t come right out and say: “I’m so afraid!” but we are more medicated on anti-anxiety and depression meds than any other generation. Anxiety is fear: fear of the future and for parents, I often discover it’s fear of their child failing or suffering in some way.
As you might expect, a parent’s fear has nothing to do with their kids and everything to do with them. And I am right there with you. When I reflect on some of my less-fine parenting moments, I can see how I was driven by fear. Why did I nag him to work on his science project instead of let him go at his rate? Why did I push him to look my friend in the eye when he said hi? My fear. Fear he might fail (science project); Fear of what others may think (my friend) and, possibly even deeper, fear of what he may become in the future (what Susie? a socially, maladjusted kid?). There is usually fear behind my less-fine parenting moments and the more aware of it I am, the better I can control it so as to parent my child instead of drip my issues on to him. So what if my friend think’s my son is rude. Is he? No. So what if he doesn’t finish his outline tonight? Do I want to be the reason he does his work? Fear of what I will say or do? Or do I want him to be driven by his own interests and desires?
The more aware parents are of what’s driving us, the calmer and more in control we can be. Click To Tweet We need to know what is behind our actions. We are the adults. We get to act consciously. It is in our family’s best interest for us to know what is driving us to encourage our daughter to try out for the soccer team when she doesn’t want to. Externally we might say ‘it’s good exercise’ or the ubiquitous, “it will be a good experience”. But what does that mean?! Surely there are other ways for our daughter to exercise. Do we want her to play because all of her friends are playing and we’re afraid she’ll “miss out”? Miss out on what? Doing something because her parents want her to but she doesn’t want to? What are we teaching her – that if your friends get together and you aren’t there, your friendship won’t be as strong anymore? Are those the kinds of friends we want for our kids?!? Where is that showing up in our life and driving our behaviors? Why don’t we deal with that instead of micro-managing our kids. What sort of “good experience” will it be as we push her to do something she doesn’t want to do? Come on. The “good experience” here will be for you to dig into what you’re afraid of. By pushing her to do something she says she doesn’t want to do will teach her that her inner voice and her inner desires don’t matter; that she doesn’t know what’s best for her. Is that the message we want to send?
One of my favorite cognitive behavioral coaching tools to use is what I call Zoom In/Zoom Out. This tool helps us keep perspective on what is going on in our lives and to manage our mindset. Imagine you’re viewing your life through a camera’s lens. Sometimes it’s necessary to zoom your lens in and sometimes it’s necessary to zoom out. Take the example of your daughter trying out for a soccer team she doesn’t want to play on. Zoom your lens way in to look only at your daughter and her needs. Your lens is so zoomed in it doesn’t capture that your neighbor’s daughter is trying out for the team nor does it capture what will happen next year if your daughter doesn’t play this year. Right here and right now, what’s right for your daughter? What does she need? How can you best serve as her parent and guide to help her meet those needs? Now, zoom out. Way out. What do you want for your daughter in ten years? When she’s your age? Do you want her to think physical exercise has to be unpleasant? Do you want her to fear what will happen if she doesn’t do what you want her to do?
Now flip this situation: say your daughter really wants to try out for the team but you think she shouldn’t because you’ve heard it’s very competitive and, hey, have you seen her with a soccer ball?! Okay mama, time to zoom in: what does your daughter need? What’s right for her? How can you best serve as her parent and guide to meet those needs? If you’re anything like me and the countless parents I coach, you will want to discourage her from trying out. But why? Because what if she fails? What if she doesn’t make the team? This is where it gets uncomfortable as a parent but where it’s crucial to keep that lens zoomed in: what if? What if she tries out and doesn’t make the team? Here’s what happens? Same thing that happens to all of us: she learns. Depending on whether you supported her in trying out or discouraged her from doing what she wanted, she could learn a variety of things:
-she could learn that her parents support her in trying new things regardless of whether she “succeeds” or not;
-she could learn that when she listens to mom and dad (doesn’t try out), she lets herself down;
-she could learn that it’s more important to stay safe and not fail than to go for what she wants;
-she could learn that life is about learning and, even though she didn’t make the team, life goes on and there are more opportunities ahead.
I love how Dr. Shefali addresses our kids trying new things and our fear of them failing:
It is not our job to be our kid’s critic. We get to be their biggest cheerleader. The world and society will teach our children what their talents are; we are here to show our kids we support their quest, their discovery of self. If they fail or succeed? That is irrelevant because we are focused on their growth and the process. (Atomic Moms, Oct. 2016)
As a coach, it is my belief that the more parents dig into their self care, which includes getting to know themselves and managing their minds, the better our world will be. Why? The more conscious I am of why I’m doing what I’m doing, the calmer and more mindful of others I can be. The more people who are consciously choosing what they say and what they do instead of reacting, the kinder our world will be.
So let’s do it. Zoom out: What do you want for your child? How is that playing out in his/her life today? Do you want him/her to feel confident? Happy? Zoom in: How can you foster that today? Tomorrow?
The place to start is with your own self exploration. If you missed the free journal questions from last week, get them here now. Set a timer for 5 minutes, get out a pen + paper, and take a step towards being an even better parent. When we know better, we do better.
This is not about placing blame or shame on yourself. Your actions are fueled from a place of good intentions but now it’s time to move forward. Love isn’t about you sheltering them from failure. Love is about you supporting them when they fail. Love yourself while doing this. Be kind to yourself and remember that it’s normal to fear your son or daughter failing and falling apart. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling the fear but don’t allow yourself to sit and wallow in that fear either. Part of being the parent is putting on those big girl panties and learning how to manage your fear so that you can allow them to fail. How? Contact me or learn more about my 4-Part Parenting online Program. I like to think of life as a path with many twists and turns. As a parent preparing my child for their future, do I work to clear the path of all obstacles and challenges or do I prepare my child by modeling and teaching the tools and skills necessary to navigate the path? If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that I can not control the path. I can control my reaction to what’s on that path and, no matter how many times I fall along that path, I can and will get up. Each time I get up stronger and wiser than when I fell down. That’s what I want for my kids and that’s how I strive to parent. Join me. Let’s do this warriors!
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