parent by design:

day 13: maybe you don't know best

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children.

One of these is roots, the other, wings.

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

a tricky balance

We like this quote from Goethe because it sums up the difficult balancing act that is parenthood, simultaneously trying to give our kids roots and wings.

Today we have an exercise for you that will help you think about your parenting approach and the thoughts and beliefs that underpin it; there are no right or wrong answers, our goal is simply to play devil's advocate.

As such, some of the questions are designed to challenge and be difficult; and it's the ones that make you feel the most uncomfortable which are the ones that you should pay more attention to.

Hopefully this exercise will give you some new information to work with and will help you to improve, even in some small way.

Just read each question and then observe the thoughts that come to mind.

Make notes if you wish, especially on the questions that provoke a reaction.

super achievers

  • Are you pushing your kids too hard to achieve?
  • If so, for whose benefit is this, yours or theirs?
  • Are you pushing your child to succeed in order to make up for your own shortcomings?
  • Do you compare your child's progress to their peers/ friends? If so, what purpose does this serve?
  • Are your kids over-scheduled?  If so, what are you trying to achieve by this?
  • Do your kids have to go to university and get a 'good' job? Why? 
  • Do you tell your kids they are amazing, gifted, talented, beautiful? (find out why you shouldn't here).
  • Do you praise their results, or their effort?

your decisions

  • Are you making choices because you feel it's the right thing to do, or because everyone else is making the same choice?
  • What path are your forcing your child to go down? Whose benefit is this for, yours or theirs?
  • Are you letting your child learn how to take risks, or are you playing it too safe?
  • Are you projecting your idea of what success is onto your child? If so, is your vision of success a healthy, realistic one?
  • Are you giving them impossible standards to live up to? 
  • Are you in alignment? Are you yourself living by the same set of standards you expect your child to live by?

your relationship with them

  • Do you have a relationship with your child that goes beyond just parent/child?
  • Do you withdraw love and affection if they don't comply with what you want, or behave in a certain way?
  • When was the last time you told them that you loved them?
  • Do you love them unconditionally i.e. do you separate behaviour from identity?
  • Do you 'spoil' them? If so, what's driving that? Could you channel this more appropriately?
  • Are you too controlling? If so, what fear is driving that? Could this be better served another way?
  • When was the last time you truly listened to your child without your parenting filter?
  • When was the last time you asked them how they are doing (without trying to 'solve' problems)? 
  • Do you really understand them? Would they agree with your response?
  • Are you more critical than supportive? Do they feel like you have their back?
  • Do you try and control behaviour with a 'carrot or stick' approach, or do you look at what is driving that behaviour? 

is it about you or them?

  • Are you letting your child be themselves? 
  • Are you forcing them to do stuff they hate, or aren't good at?
  • Is your child making decisions about their school/ career/ life because they think it will please you?
  • Do you allow your child to make their own decisions even if you disagree? 
  • Do you allow your child to fail, to mess up and feel the consequences of that? 
  • Are you overprotective? 
  • Do you have a life beyond just them? What will you do when they leave home?

what to do next

Hopefully that was a useful exercise, but what to do next?

Take the question that produced the biggest reaction inside of you, the one that disturbed you the most; now ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why did it provoke such a strong reaction?
  • In an ideal world, what would you like to see/ do/ be instead?
  • Write down 10 ways that you could achieve this.
  • Choose 1. 
  • Do it NOW.
  • Schedule to do it again.