As a parent, you want what is best for your children. Even before they’re born, most people have some preconceived notions of what their children’s lives will be like. You may speculate about their future, but you generally envision something positive. You think of a life that is “better” than your own. As your children grow, you work hard with them, guiding them towards that vision that you have for them — even if they don’t always share that vision.
So when does parental guidance become pushing your children towards something they don’t want? How, why, and when do you cross the line? More importantly, how can you recognize your behavior before you actually cross the line, giving yourself a chance to modify your actions?
Some parents see their children following in their career footsteps or taking over a family business. Others envision their children being the first to graduate from college or even high school. For other families, the picture they have for their kids is about having their own families with a spouse and children.
None of these pathways are wrong, but what if your children want lives that are quite different from the ones you have planned for them? Will you be able to accept their decisions and guide them to success on their terms? Or will you only support and guide them if they meet your expectations?
The best parental guidance you can give is to steer your children towards what brings them joy. By paying attention to their reactions from the youngest age, you will have a good picture of what they like and do not like. You can gently steer them towards things they enjoy and encourage them to try other activities at the same time. In order to develop their own Internal Guidance System, they must have a variety of experiences and learn what pleases them and what doesn’t.
You can push for them to experiment with different activities, but you should also recognize that even young children have an inner sense of what is right for them. This may be quite different from what was right for you as a child.
If your children really don’t want to participate in some activity that you are encouraging, take a few moments to check in with your own Internal Guidance System. What is your motivation for this activity?
Are you encouraging or even pushing your child to do something because you enjoyed it? Because it is expected? Is it because it is the “obvious” choice?
Maybe you think it will be “good for them.” Or perhaps they enjoyed this the year before. Maybe the neighbor kid is doing it and so it is convenient for the parents to carpool.
There are so many reasons you could encourage your children to take this class, play that sport, learn an instrument, get the right job, or date a person. By taking the time to listen to your own IGS and pay attention to your children’s reactions, you can be the parent you want to be. You want to be the person who guides, rather than push your children through joy-filled childhoods towards joy-filled adult lives.
Share your thoughts?
© 2014. Sharon Ballantine. All Rights Reserved