Do You Love Your Child? Really? Unconditionally?
Many parents believe they love their child but they actually love an image of what they want their child to be more than the child.
Parents form an image of an ideal son or daughter in their mind. They often begin forming this image long before the child is even conceived.
Once the child arrives the child is compared to this “ideal image” and judged by how well the child meets or fails to meet the expectations of this ideal.
I see this played out in countless ways by countless parents.
To me the saddest parts are:
- The parent really wants to love their child but does not know how – they only know how to compare the child to their ideal – approving when the child matches the preconceived image and disapproving when the child differs from the image.
- The parent does not really know their child.
- The child feels pressured to become the “ideal” which may have nothing to do with what would allow the child to thrive in the best possible ways.
- The child feels the love of the parent must be earned.
I see parents with intelligent young children who are very capable of making good decisions for themselves insisting that the child do as the parent believes best (based on the “ideal image”) rather than who the child really is.
Even children who have made good decisions again and again are pressured into decisions that are not right for them by parents who love the “ideal” child instead of seeing the beauty of their own child with the individual traits and characteristics that make that child unique.
These children are chastised for making decisions that do not conform to the “ideal” even when they are making what is clearly a correct decision to observers.
The parents don’t see themselves as loving an ideal. They truly believe they love their child but the “best for the child” in their eyes is to follow the ideal they have constructed in their own minds instead of what would best suit their unique child.
Recently, I watched a man with two beautiful, intelligent, interesting, and delightful daughters reduce one to tears through his insistence that she made a mistake in a decision that, to anyone who knows the full situation, sees she made great decisions. Only someone comparing her to an image that has nothing to do with who or what she is would see it otherwise.
Instead of getting to know and love who his daughters are he projects a stereo-type of what he wants and then judges them based on whether or not they live up to his expectations. As a young man, he did as his parents wanted him to do instead of following his own desires and still expresses regrets about the things he did not do as a young man to please his parents yet he is attempting to repeat the same scenario’s with his daughters. Just because he acted to please his parents who were comparing him to their own “ideal son” does not mean it was the best course of action for him at the time nor does it mean he should or must continue the chain of pain and insist his daughters follow his desires instead of their own dreams and desires.
We are taught to honor our parents but at some point our parents must honor who we are and allow us to do what suits us best. If you are continuing this chain of pain in your own life ask yourself how your life might be different if your parents had supported who you were instead of judging you based on how you lived up to what they wanted you to be? How many generations of pain do you want that to continue? We each get to live our own lives but we do not live our children’s lives for them – that is their job, their life.
Is it time for you to give some serious, inward thought to what you want rather than what you had in your relationship with your parents? What would have been better? Would it have been better if they just loved you and you knew they always loved you no matter what choices you made? If they trusted you to make the determination of what was best for you? You have guidance (all of us do) that guides our lives to the best they can be.
The guidance tells us what is best for ourselves. It does not tell us what is best for anyone else, including our children. When you teach your children to listen to you instead of their guidance you are leading them away from the absolute best guidance they can have, the guidance that is aware not only of all their hopes and dreams but of also the path of least resistance to fulfillment of those dreams.
Both science and all major religions speak of this guidance although many are not as clear about the message and guidance as our programs.
When we second guess our children it only serves to undermine their confidence and, when they want to please parents who are comparing them to an ideal, makes them sad that following her own guidance makes the parent unhappy.
Parents (and other adults – Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, etc.) could have a much better relationship if they focused on knowing who the child really is, what are their hopes, dreams, and heartfelt desires?
We all tend to assign the same reasons to others actions that we believe we would have if we had taken those actions but we are seldom right about the reasons we assign — not just you — all of us are woefully inadequate in figuring out why another does what they do — because it is complex and based on ALL that they have lived. Even two people growing up in the same household experience it differently because of the “back stories” they assign. I go into this in detailed explanations in my book. Far better to ask, without judgment, but with curiosity and a desire to understand.
What do you want with your children? Do you want to be a distant authority figure that they try to please or do you want them to really know you and you to really know them? As you project what you want on them you close the door to their being able to openly be who they really are with you. Is that what you want? To not know them but just know how much they live up to, or fail to live up to, what you want them to be? Do you not trust them to be very wonderful if they choose their own path? Look at their accomplishments so far.
Given the belief that they are loved for their wonderful and unique selves children will make good choices. Won’t it be interesting to see what choices they make going forward?
Look inside yourself. Think about your children and their choices so far. How much influence do you really believe a parent can have on whether they choose to do things we do not want or things we want? How many parents do you know who have raised several children who turned our well but one who insisted on making bad choices? Parental influence really does not have that big of an influence. What it does do, however, is influence the relationship between the parent and child. When the parent attempts to control (an impossible task – completely out of the parent’s control) rather than loving unconditionally (an achievable goal that is totally within the parent’s control) the relationship suffers. Can you find a place inside yourself where you can trust your children? When you think, “My children are smart and make good decisions” does it not feel better than “I have to second guess the decisions my children make and point out when I think they have made a mistake”? Which thought feels better?
Do you not believe that your child’s guidance, which considers all their hopes, dreams and desires, does not contain a desire to please their parents – to have good relationships with family? I know it does. I know their guidance considers all the factors they want to consider without them having to spend a decade figuring it out.
When I tell my children to do what their guidance tells them to do I know that guidance is going to consider their desire for a good relationship with not only me but with others in their life. I do not have to assert my desires on them, I can trust that their guidance, just like my own, just like yours, just like everyone’s — is always pointing out the best path for them.
I hope that this helps you build deeper relationships with your children by trusting them more. Set an intention to love your child – whoever that is – not your ideal child. I would love to hear how this decision changes your life and your relationship with your child.
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