The other day I set up Google Plus on my mom's laptop. I was glad she asked me and glad I could help. After all, I am more exposed to modern technology as a younger person; I should help. I don't expect my mom to be able to teach me about the latest advances in anything, except maybe that in which she has expertise. Previous generations are great for giving history, perspective, opinions and wisdom, but they aren't supposed to be great at the latest technology; that just wouldn't be efficient. That's what the newest generations are for.
It's easy to accept this about our parents when it comes to technology, but we have a much harder time accepting it when it comes to emotional issues. On some level, we still think of our parents like gods. On some level we still think they should be all-knowing, all-capable and certainly more advanced than we are emotionally. But does that make any logical sense? No. Logic dictates that we expect our parents to need to learn from us about how to handle emotions, communicate gracefully and sort through difficult topics. If we took an objective view, we'd even consider how our parents were raised and what their life experiences were that shaped them, as we pondered their emotional bandwidth, and we'd conclude they were doing the best that they could.
But we really don't tend to look at it that way. And why is that? We fear it's tantamount to "letting them off the hook," and the worst part of that: We'd just be left looking at ourselves. Take a moment to think about the failures you are still holding against your parents. Maybe they were too rigid, gave you crazy notions about body image, were neglectful, maybe they seemed focused solely on achievement or didn't push you hard enough. For years I held my mother's anxiety against her, until I saw my children playing out some of the same pattern. It hit me between the eyes: This doesn't skip a generation! I am anxious, too. It's in the family line, but that doesn't mean we're stuck with it. Can you see that you have the same traits in different forms, and maybe are already passing on the lineage to your children? This should make you giggle (at how oddly pre-programmed it is) and hopefully give you relief.
I hope I am speaking to the sandwich generation right now, because I think it's our job to take back leadership on self-development. Whether you are busy correcting your parents or your children, my message is the same: For best results, please look at yourself first and lead the way. Interestingly, if you are a parent, doing the work to forgive and heal with your parents will automatically shift your relationship with your children. (Yeah, two in one!)
If your parents never learned how to "be with" hard emotions like fear and sadness, they probably never taught you. If they never learned how to speak up and tell the truth with grace, they probably never taught you. If they never learned to cherish themselves and their word and honor what they said they'd do, they probably never taught you. And if they never learned that they could transform negative traits into positive ones, they probably never taught you. Since you'd like to do so much more for your kids, and now this self-development training is available to the public, it's your job to learn these things and teach up and down the generations.
I hope you don't feel burdened by this. I think it is the honor of our generation. (I do this work too, and though it is sometimes uncomfortable, the rewards are huge.) The next generation will have something fascinating to teach us, and hopefully we'll be humble enough to make it easy for them. The step to take now is reflecting. Write a comment and let me know if you agree that it's your job to evolve your lineage emotionally. Think about what you could model or teach your parents, instead of resenting them for not already "getting it." Now, best of all, if you are a parent, what does this mean for your parenting? Are you ready to be human and fallible in front of your kids (so as not to trick them into believing you know everything)? Are you ready to humbly lead towards greater emotional intelligence for your family? If so, you are my hero.
P.S.- Parenting by Design, our 4-week telecourse begins Thursday, Feb 21. To begin evolving your family's lineage and shifting your relationships (with kids and parents), register now.
For more by Laurie Gerber, click here.
For more on emotional intelligence, click here.