If you have been reading my posts you’ll see I like challenges. They help us grow and step out of our comfort zone. So, here is my next one.
If we are truly seeking growth opportunities in our lives, we have to look no further than our immediate family. Of course growth opportunities are EVERYWHERE, but I will specifically be focusing on our children here. Instead of facing our issues when a growth opportunity presents itself, we usually try to run and hide from it. If we have an issue with a stranger, we can call them a name and never see them again. If we have an issue with our spouse, we say it is their fault, leave the relationship and move on to another. However, we cannot run away from our kids. We can’t move on to another relationship like we can with our spouse or never see them again like we can with a stranger; we actually have to face them. Sometimes this becomes a very ugly dance because we don’t know how to address the real issues, but they keep coming and slapping us in the face anyway. Our kids are some of the best teachers we will ever get. So, here is my challenge to you. Next time you face an issue with your child, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Why am I getting upset about this situation?
2. Can I see this situation from their point of view?
3. Am I looking out for what is in my best interest or their best interest?
4. What can I learn from this situation so it doesn’t keep happening?
5. Why am I forcing my beliefs and opinions on my kids? Are these beliefs serving me (and them) well?
Let me talk a little more about how this works. When our kids are younger they can teach us things like patience, unconditional love, and how to be in the present moment. When they are older they can teach us things about issues we never dealt with in our childhood, like any resentments we still hold, feelings we may have about abandonment or trust, and any disappointment about dreams we never pursued. There are many examples, but here are a couple.
1. You always played baseball growing up. You always pictured your son playing baseball. But it turns out not only does your son not want to play baseball, he doesn’t want to play ANY sports. You keep pushing him and maybe even belittling him by calling him names like whimp or sissy, somehow thinking this might actually motivate him. It is very frustrating for you that he is not the person you imagined he would be. But why? Why are you really frustrated? If you looked within and stopped projecting outward you would see this is stemming from something from your childhood. Maybe your dad talked to you that way and had pushed his interests on to you. Or maybe you were never as successful at baseball as you had hoped so now you have made it your son’s responsibility to make up for your shortcomings in the game of baseball. No matter what the issue ultimately is, it is not an issue with your son, but with yourself. We need to deal with the real problem, that we are resentful of our dad’s treatment of us or our feelings of inadequacy of not being successful in baseball, and let our kids pursue their own dreams.
2. Your child is not doing well in school. They don’t seem to have any interest in school at all. They complain about having to get up in the morning, getting them to do their homework is always a struggle, and they are always complaining it is too hard. You constantly talk to them about how lazy they are, how they are not really trying and they are going to grow up to be losers in life if they don’t change. You are always arguing and fighting about school. But why? Why are you really angry? If you looked within and stopped projecting outward you would see this is stemming from something from your past. Maybe you were not good at school and made it your child’s responsibility to do better and be the doctor or lawyer you never were able to be. Or maybe you are trying to prove your worth to your family by how your child is doing in school. If you really looked at the issue without judgement of your child, you would see it is your child’s way of calling out for help. It is not about you at all. Maybe they are being bullied but don’t know how to say it, maybe they are not thriving in a typical school environment and need a different learning environment (like homeschool or charter school) or maybe they are not good at testing and have given up on learning because they feel like they are a failure if they can’t test well. Again, if we can look within first, we can see this for what it is – a call for help, not an attack on us. Why are we getting angry because our child is struggling?
Parents tend to put a lot of their hopes, dreams and preconceived expectations on their kid’s shoulders, not realizing that our kids are unique individuals and not mini me’s. Your worth, legacy or identity should rest on your shoulders, not your child’s. Give them the freedom to pursue their own dreams, their own way. They have a better map and plan for their lives than we ever could because they are the only ones that truly know what they are called to do. Our job is to figure out what we are called to do and deal with our own issues.
Sometimes we learn things as kids (beliefs, coping mechanisms) that maybe serve us temporarily but should not be taken on for the rest of our lives. Or maybe we learn things that never really served us well, but it was all we knew at the time. It is always good to question our beliefs and where they are coming from. This is real growth. When we get stuck and stubborn that is where we stifle our growth. Of course once we can do this with our kids, we can bring it in to our other relationships as well. When we take accountability and responsibility for our feelings we not only free ourselves from becoming a victim, but we free others from carrying the burden of ‘having done something wrong’. So, when a challenging situation presents itself, first look within yourself for where that feeling or emotion is coming from, then you can effectively deal with the other person who happened to be present when this feeling was triggered.