A fearful parent isn’t parenting when they’re preventing danger, they’re parenting when they’re being afraid. An angry parent isn’t parenting when they’re disciplining, they’re parenting when they’re scaring people. And a sad parent isn’t parenting when they’re warning their child about all of the potential pitfalls in life, they’re parenting when they see themselves as weak and incapable. And the narcissists… well they aren’t parenting at all.
Of course each of the examples is in a small way a form of narcissism in that any of us in an egocentric state would be focusing on a personal wants rather than the needs of the child. The fearful parent wants a safer world, the angry one wants a more predictable world and the sad one wants a more loving world. An ego just talks to itself about how scary the world is, how dumb people are, or how much life sucks.
You can live or you can ruminate. Rumination is static life. Nothing’s actually happening, you’re just thinking about things and going through the motions of a very limited existence. That’s like being in the Matrix. It’s repetitive and uninspiring and unproductive. A life of action however is filled with inspiration, cooperation, creativity and productivity. You can’t want to give blood or want to get a new job or want to invent something–you have to actually turn that thought into an action and you will meet other like-minded souls.
Parenting while ruminating is to be an absentee parent. You can sit with your kid and be on your phone or doing work or thinking about your own problems but then you’re not really with them at all and they feel it. I know countless kids who live in gorgeous showhomes and they ride around in the finest cars and yet their lives are hollow and cold. More than anything kids want genuine connection and our own wants can get in the way of that happening. It can’t be ego to ego, it has to soul to soul. It’s better for all involved.
Put the phone down, stop working, don’t have a time limit. Just be with them. Notice when you speak and when you don’t. Are you corrective? Warning? Upset? From what perspective do you parent? There’s no wrong perspectives as long as you manage yourself–and your kids will be very forgiving–but it’s up to you to model the self-control they’ll need when they’re older. If you just listen completely you’ll be surprised at how helpful you can be.
Your fears are yours. Have them. Feel them. But don’t transplant them into your children. In other words don’t limit them with your fears. Don’t let your anger make them afraid to express themselves or you’ll cripple every romantic relationship they have. And don’t drag them down to commiserate with you in your sadness. You’d both be better off going to a good comedy together. The bottom line is, kids should courageously find out who they are and not be frightened into being someone smaller.
We’ve been raising kids for millions of years. Lately some are becoming remarkably capable while at the same time others are functioning as mere shadows of their true selves. Insecure and depressed kids aren’t lacking in potential at all, but many have been crushed by the hopes and fears of their parents. To the contrary, the capable kids weren’t parented into being amazing, they were amazing simply because they had the room to grow. Let your kids grow.
Life comes with some bumps and bruises to the body and the heart. Don’t let that stop you from living. Lead by example. A deep and meaningful life is waiting. Your children only need to see you pursuing your dreams for them to understand that they should chase theirs too.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.