Want to do something amazing for your relationship with your kids? Engage in this thought exercise:
Think of a good friend; someone you genuinely like and care about. (Don’t use your spouse – too many in-law issues!) What sort of parent would you want for that friend? If you were somehow able to go back and parent your friend yourself, how would you do it?
I have found that by looking at a friend, who I don’t really have a vested interest in trying to change, I can envision what it would look like for me to parent with more patience, wisdom and acceptance. It’s helped me come to see my kids for what they are. They are their own persons who have both the right and the responsibility to figure out who they are and what sort of life they want to live. What they are not are extensions of me or proof of the worth of my life or even my skills as a parent.
This is so clear to us when dealing with any human being other than a child – particularly your own. Then we are prone to respond to their imperfections, independence and petty rebellions by going into whatever our version of full-blown panicked-tyranny mode is to cow them into pleasing us. And that’s hard on both parent and child. Even as a kid it always seemed to me that both my father and my grandfather would have liked to be more gentle and empathetic than they were with their children. But they were convinced that if they didn’t make sure we stayed not just on the straight and narrow but on the painted line right in the middle of the road, all hell would break loose. I just don’t have the fortitude or the compliant kids necessary to get away with that style of parenting, so I’ve been letting my kids wander all over the countryside surrounding the road for a while now and my father himself has commented positively on the results. (Not that he doesn’t have some reservations, but then again, so do I!) And it turns out that I was right about my dad too – seeing him hold one of his grandkids is a beautiful thing.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I have no problem pulling rank and forcing my kids to behave or comply if need be. But my preferred method is always to convince them to go along by choice. One of my proudest parenting moments was when Continue reading