While I was actively raising my three children, my role was similar to that of a sculptor. There were young, malleable hearts and minds in front of me. They were just waiting for my values and to be moulded into their desired shape.
I was adamant about this role for quite some time. I only realized at a certain point that, unlike clay, my kids were born with definite “forms” and would continue developing much of their final form regardless of anything I said or done. I’d even go so far as to say the most important role I played in shaping their sculpting environments was creating the environment for them to take shape. Both naturally and through the influence of the many, many other sculptors that would pass by their circles.
The sculpting efforts of parents are absolutely important and influential. They are still only a part of the outcome. It is important to reach a point where, as I call it, “acceptance parent,” we are less concerned about our children meeting OUR goals and more concerned about finding THEIR place in the world. Do they recognize THEIR strengths and passions and apply these qualities in a niche which gives THEM fulfillment and satisfaction?
It is likely that we have all felt the desire to please our parents. We may even have made decisions about our career or relationships based on what our parents think of them. Our parents were undoubtedly our most important teachers. However, what worked in their era and for their personalities did not always translate to us. What makes us believe that what we want for children will be more successful than the things they have?
Acceptance parenting means we listen and ask more questions and do less directing. Our sculpting environment must be a place where they feel safe, can explore themselves and their values and let go of their public persona. We don’t want them to feel like they have to please us. Instead, we want them understand that they can trust us.
I’m referring, of course to things such as social activities and educational interests, career decisions, lifestyle choices, and, yes, relationships choices. But, I don’t mean to suggest we ignore ethical, moral, or choice-making issues such as drug use, or unhealthy living habits. To accept our children and value them as unique individuals, we do not need to accept their behaviours that may have unintended consequences. Even if our children make poor choices, we should try to support them in any way we can.
As a parent, I wish that I had done certain things differently. But what parent does not feel this way? In the end, I think I did the right thing by taking a step back and letting them explore their late adolescence or early adulthood. Their curiosity, their travels, and their education led them to places I never could have imagined. Of course, they remain works in progress but have long since taken over the sculpting and I am left to accept and admire their artistic work.
Graham Hookey has written “Parenting: A Team Sport”. He can be contacted at [email protected].
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