Today I want to tell you a parenting story. If you don’t have kids, please read as someone’s child or as a potential, future parent.
I am a mother of two elementary-aged kids I am raising in New York City.
Now, I know one of the most important parenting rules is: don’t project yourself onto your child. Your child is not an extension of you, but an individual. Except then, how do you explain what I discovered a few weeks back at our Parent Teacher Conferences?
I was with my eldest daughter’s teacher, who started our meeting with all of my child’s positive qualities: she is studious, does high level work and generally excels, but there were three issues she wanted my daughter to work on.
1) My daughter gives 97% effort to a task, then stubbornly stops before checking through and relinquishes the possibility of 100% effort and result.
I winced in self-recognition.
2) My daughter doesn’t LOVE helping other people, which her teacher often asks of her because she is a more advanced student in her class. When I asked her about it, my daughter explained that she stops helping people when she feels it could hurt her edge as “best student in the class.”
I turned a little red. That one sounded like me as well!
3) Lastly, the teacher explained to me that she was concerned about how much my daughter avoids reading about current events.
Now I just had to giggle. Ask me the last time I read the paper. My daughter knew why I was giggling, because we’ve discussed how much we “have in common” candidly and this too was my influence. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
I am telling you this story because I want you to pause the next time you get stressed out over one of your child’s weaknesses, whether it be social, academic or emotional. Please reflect on the reality that they get all their positive and negative qualities from you, or the person you likely loved enough (at one point) to make them with. This should give you a moment of compassion for them and their struggle. Lovingly, recognize you BOTH have the same challenge to work on and agree to work on it together. If your children are grown, this all still applies.
If you are reading this as a future parent, please know, your children will have all the same qualities, good and bad as YOU and whomever you make or raise them with. If there is something you can’t stand about you or your partner, please make a pact with yourself to start working on that trait now, before it drives you insane in your child.
And one last application, if you are busy hating your parents for the traits they have (or had), like being stubborn, cold, competitive, erratic, mopey, vain, critical, etc., please take a look at where you, the apple, have fallen. Chances are excellent that you have some form of their trait too, even if it is expressed in a completely different way from how they express it. You need compassion, for their struggle, too.
One more important note about parents, if you are still hoping they will change and show YOU how to be a better person, please flip the coin over and instead commit yourself to showing them how change happens. Given all the wonderful exposure to cutting edge thinking you have, you really should be the one to lead the way. I know I said it’s the parents’ job, but if you’re reading this blog, it turns out, it’s your job, regardless of whether you are a parent or child or both.
Once you understand yourself and your child as unwitting, but empowered heirs to certain traits, you can lighten up about them. Having a perspective on this lineage phenomenon provides a lot of opportunity to relate and grow together. Neither my daughter nor I “feel bad” about our negative traits, though we do feel compelled to improve ourselves because we see the impact of maintaining the status quo. Well, except for the current events part. That one I feel very justified about! I value bliss over knowledge in some cases and I have taught my child well.
Let us know if we can help you be a better example or guide to your children or your parents. It’s what we love to do!
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