Becoming a parent is a rite of passage. Once it happens, you come out the other side with a new pair of glasses complete with sparkly optical lenses. These glasses make you see things differently in a way you never could have imagined.
Parents have one thing in common, and that is they were all once parented. We all, in some way , have had this experience. We have all been a child. We can probably all recall times of feeling like things weren't fair, we weren't listened to or we got into trouble for something we didn't do. We vowed that things would be different if and when we became parents.
But those darned glasses sometimes blur our memories and our vision.
Then, it happens -- we become a parent to a needy, beautiful baby. Our first instinct is to protect and care for this helpless being. We put on your battle gear to protect and defend our little one from germs, falls, bullies and bad behavior. We become powerful in our roles. Without our "all knowing" power, our child would surely fall through the cracks into a world of accidents, bad grades and crime.
We as parents become so protective and powerful we take on the role of knowing more than our little bundles of joys. Our armor is stronger, we are bigger, we have lived longer. This must mean that we know more and should use our surplus knowledge to teach our kids.
What if we changed our thoughts though and gave our children credit. Sure, they need guidance and feeding and shelter. But what if, other than the basic needs we listened and watched them know? What if kids were given the freedom and trust to think and become the awesome person they were meant to become?
Think about it, If the parent is controlling each situation, when does the child's voice get heard? And if their voice isn't heard over and over again, they stop using their voice. Then they grow up without a voice of their own and instead, let themselves be guided by society.
Would you want this fate for yourself? Chances are most of us have lived this fate and this is why so many of us are trying to "find ourselves" in adulthood. If we had the chance to be and were honored for who we were when we were children then today as an adult we would be whole and not constantly searching the internet for answers to our happiness and purpose.
I don't often ask for people to look to the future as I am a proponent to the present, but just this once, consider the future you want for your children. Do you want them to be discontent following the herd, or do you want them to be heard rejoicing their individual beautiful voice?
Next time your are hanging out with kids, keep these six thoughts in mind;
1. Mutual respect: Every person deserves equal respect. We as a society have this notion that children need to respect their elders. The problem here is that it is expected of them and not of us. We should teach our children to respect every and all creature while we ourselves model equal respect to everyone even children. Don't expect children to respect their elders if the elders aren't showing equal respect.
2. Listen: A child's voice is powerful and so full of knowledge. Their voice should never be silenced or dismissed. Allow your child to be heard and to have an equal say in how things are decided.
3. Honor their tantrums and bad moods. Chances are you have heard a child have a tantrum and their parents threatening or bribing them into adequate behavior. Painful, isn't it? But all kids do it. It's normal as clouds in the sky on a rainy day. Let the child have their fit, give them their space and respect their need to vent. It will pass. And consider as an adult how many tantrums you yourself have and aren't being sent to your room for. Mutual respect.
4. Conditions: Ask yourself this question next time you put a condition on your child, "If my spouse put that condition on me, how would I feel?" Here is an example, parent to child, "Clean your room or no treat after dinner." Now imagine a spouse saying this to their spouse, "Clean the kitchen or no desert for you!" Our mouths would fall to our guts. If this is the case, why do we think this is an OK way to approach our kids?
5. Trust in learning. I have three kids and have witnessed each one learning differently and each one having different strengths and weaknesses. Our children were not made with a cookie cutter, so we have to stay away from the cookie cutter approach of learning. Honor your child's interests and foster them even if you have not yet been able to find value in those interests. Your child was born to be great. Don't inhibit his greatness for fear of not making it in the world. The true way for him to make it is if he is allowed to follow his path. That way he will face very little obstacles on his path.
6. Throw out fear of judgment: Judgment has controlled us all at some point in our lives. How many of us have made choices as parents because we were following what was expected? We don't want to stand out. We are afraid if we don't discipline our kids, the way the books tell us to, our kids will be failures. We worry, worry and worry that our kids will not fit in. What are we teaching our kids here? To fear and to be more concerned with opinions than authenticity.
The common core message here is to love, respect and listen to your child. At any age, we are all learning and have the power to learn from and teach one another. Be your child's guide just as much as they can be yours.
If you are willing throw out your parenting glasses, they just cloud your vision. Instead choose to see your kids with clears eyes full of their own potential.