Parenting is by far the biggest challenge of my adult life, but we’ve made some changes and set some new parenting goals this year that have made it so much easier on all of us.
First of all we let go of the idea that we could possibly get everything right in this thing.
We are going to make mistakes. We have always been decent at apologizing, but now we own our faults, hold space for how our children feel as a result of our mistakes, and ask THEM for suggestions on how we can do things differently to better support them in their growth.
Secondly we have shifted our purpose from control to support.
This may seem obvious and honestly we thought we were already on this track. But we realized that many of our parenting strategies were attempts at controlling behavior, not recognizing that most outward behavior is a symptom of the kid not being able to understand or appropriately express how he (I say he because I have boys) is actually feeling on the inside.
We began to see the gaps in our own emotional intelligence and recognized patterns in their behavior that they had picked up from us. When a “tantrum” (or bad mood, rough day – whatever we might call such outbursts for ourselves as adults) strikes, our goal is now to support the child as they try to figure out what they are actually feeling/needing in that moment.
And finally, we recognize our children as full human beings.
It seems that there is a common theme throughout history where children are treated as less than. Their individual and unique needs, wants, and forms of self-expression come second to the parents desires. Instead we recognize that our children are their own people. At 6 and 4 they are already experiencing the world differently than we are/have. I have no idea what it’s like to be a 6 or a 4 year old in 2019, not to mention that both of my sons have vastly different character traits than I do.
Recognizing their full humanity means that my feelings/opinions/beliefs don’t matter more than theirs. It means that I support them in learning how to experience and interact with the world around them, rather than demanding that they do it a certain way.
This one change has made the most dramatic change in our relationships with them and the tone of our family overall. Our kids feel seen and heard. They “act out” far less and are able to grasp what they are genuinely feeling and express it much more quickly. Sure we slip back into old habits but they are quick and [usually] gentle in reminding us of our new philosophy.
Our new goals in parenting
With all these changes our parenting goals have shifted but also feel much simpler. Obviously they can be challenging, especially as we are all unlearning our former ways of parenting and the subconscious beliefs we have had about ourselves and each other. But I have this calming sense that if I only teach them these three things, they will be well-adjusted, compassionate, productive, innovative, and creative adults in this world one day.
Resilience is so so vital for life. It means seeing failures and challenges as strength building learning opportunities. Resilience means being able to stay calm when something is hard. It means not being afraid to ask questions and try again. It means being able to learn from their own strong emotions about failing and respond to them rather than reacting.
This is a far cry different from the “perfectly imperfect” binary of my generation of mothers. Life really isn’t good vs bad, success vs failure, black vs white – there is so much in between. Giving them permission not to fear failure but to learn from it will put them so far ahead of me. Seriously. I was practically today years old when I learned that lesson. Haha!
This term itself encompasses so much but two things that we largely want to focus on are self-esteem and confidence. With this our kids can overcome things like negative self-talk, recognizing emotions, creative problem solving on their own, taking ownership of faults with compassion vs shame which leads to genuine change. We also desire to teach confidence in a way that doesn’t require our children to compare themselves to others. Competition can be healthy in sports but in the real world it is far better that we support one another and don’t celebrate or find comfort in others failures.
3. Growth Mindset
I want my kids to know that intelligence/skill is never limited. You don’t ever have to settle at a certain point and believe that that is as far as you can take it, unless you want to. But with practice, failure, and hard work you can improve in any endeavor.
When I was deciding on my career back in high school I boxed myself in and limited myself to what I was good at at that time. I didn’t take into account what I actually wanted to do or was passionate about at all.
The one thing I really enjoyed at the time I thought I was bad at because I got only a B and not an A like I did in everything else. (Read more about that here.)
In learning growth mindset from a young age, this will be second nature to them rather than self-doubt.
4. Self – Responsibility
I want my boys to know that the only person responsible for their growth and happiness is them. I want them to look at everything in their lives as an opportunity to learn something and mature. Even the “bad” decisions we make can tell us something about ourselves. What need are we trying to fill by acting in this certain way? Am I attempting to avoid feeling/processing an uncomfortable emotion by doing this thing that doesn’t actually serve me?
An example of self-responsibility is my husband and I both owning that our former parenting strategy was not benefiting any of us AND implementing the changes necessary to course correct. Our former parenting strategy was an attempt to fill a perceived need for control. I say perceived, because it is one that we were conditioned by society to believe that we needed. Instead we realized that we didn’t really need control at all. This was actually conflicting with our need for peace and our desire for our kids to have the space/support to become whoever they want to be.
Some tools and resources I find helpful in this endeavor.
The Big Life Journal has some incredible resources for kids that I stumbled across on instagram one evening. I’ve purchased their Growth Mindset, Confidence & Self-Esteem, and Resilience pdf kits. The boys have enjoyed what we have done with these so far and look forward to doing more, especially throughout the summer.
So far parenting is simpler and far more enjoyable when each child is valued for who they are, rather than trying to control, bend, or mold them into someone they are not.
Tell us your parenting goals below!
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