Being a parent is a big deal. It’s a decision you take not only to make it possible for another human being to enter this world, but to also be responsible for them for the rest of your life.
Needless to say, parents place a lot of pressure on themselves. Having a child is no small undertaking. However, what often happens is parents believe they need to control their child, along with how he or she turns out.
But perhaps the correct question to ask is not how much control parents have in how their child turns out. Instead, maybe parents should consider that their role is not a controlling one, but a creative one.
Instead of controlling their child, it’s up to the parents to create a loving and self-affirming environment in which the child can develop and grow into the human being they are meant to be.
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The problem with child outcomes
When you ask yourself, “How much control do I have over how my child turns out?” You set both you and your child up for failure. Here’s why.
It’s common for parents to idealize their child and dream about who they will become “when they grow up.” And based on our ideal, we teach, train, discipline and shape our child to fit the role we envision for them.
But what happens when your chid’s path doesn’t line up with what you had in mind?
For one thing, you can feel disappointed in your child. After all, they’ve let you down. On the other hand, you can feel like a failure.
“What did I do wrong?” is a question many parents ask themselves when their children turn out differently than expected.
All the while, we forget about the child, who may simply have a different trajectory than the parent could ever imagine.
Therefore, instead of wasting time, energy and emotions on controlling your child’s outcome, consider what you can do to create the most loving environment for your child to grow up in.
Why creating a loving space is better than controlling outcomes
A child’s growth and development is intricately connected to his or her emotional well-being, along with the emotional environment of their childhood. Children who feel safe, loved and respected are much more likely to grow up able to cope with their own emotions and also develop healthy relationship dynamics with other individuals.
What’s more, creating a loving environment allows the child to develop a strong sense of self-worth, self-respect, and self-confidence – all of which are absolutely essential for an authentic and meaningful life.
So, how can you do that? The first step starts before your child is even born, and as you’ll see, many of the following steps have a lot to do with you, and not only your child.
Create a loving environment before your child is born
What can you do to create a safe, secure and loving space for your child to flourish?
Consider these tips:
- Eat and drink responsibly.
- Cope with your emotions responsibly, especially during pregnancy, as the stress levels and emotions the mother experiences can directly impact the development of the fetus.
- Address mental health issues or concerns, especially during pregnancy, as your mental health can have either a positive or negative influence on your child.
- Know how to give yourself what you need, in terms of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-respect.
- Follow your dreams and create a life that satisfies you – a life that your child can be a part of.
Create a loving environment for your developing child
Once your child is born, it’s important to take an active role in their life. This means protecting and caring for them, and always letting them know you love and accept them.
But as you’ll see, creating a loving environment also means letting go, too:
- Allow them to explore the world and question what they observe.
- Allow them to express themselves freely. Of course, when they speak unkindly or do something wrong, be there to correct them, but in general, allow them to be themselves.
- Avoid expecting your child to make you happy, especially in terms of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-respect.
- Avoid living vicariously through your child, and accept that they may want to pursue interests that are not your own.
How to support your child’s development
Raising a child is often like giving them a set of crayons and a blank page, and watching what they create. It’s up to you to provide the supplies, and it’s up to them to shape their life with them.
Here are some ways that parents can support their child in growing into the person they’re meant to be:
- Surrounding them with good examples in the form of teachers, mentors, media, literature, music, art, etc.
- Provide opportunities that support their unique talents and strengths.
- Avoid shaming and judging them.
- Practice inclusivity and unconditional love. Remember, you may have expectations for your child, but if they don’t fulfill these expectations, they still deserve love and respect.
- Remember, your child is a unique, individual person. Your main job as a parent is to assist them in becoming that.
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Discipline versus destructive feedback
Your child is not perfect and they will make mistakes. And when they do, parents have one of two choices: they can shame and blame. Or, they can use the mistake as an opportunity to encourage better behavior.
More often than not, parents opt for shame-and-blame, and this may be due to the fact that we often shame and blame ourselves for our own mistakes. Then, when our children mess up, we think of ourselves as failures.
In short, we get trapped in a vicious shame cycle that doesn’t serve either the parent or the child. It is especially damaging for the child because they come to confuse their self-worth with their successes or failures.
But it’s in moments like these that we can teach children to see their mistakes for what they are: mistakes. And to see themselves as what they are: worthy and able human beings.
If you’re asking yourself how much you can control how your child turns out, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself a different question: How can you help your child create a life that is meaningful and authentic for them?