As parents, we want our children to be happy; the problem is that at times we think we always know what will make them happy and we end up pushing our views, ideas, and dreams into them.
Have you ever done something just to please your parents? Do you really want your children to do things just to make you happy or find approval? Or do you want them to be free to be themselves and follow their own path?
There’s a thin line when it comes to parenting. We need to guide our children, encourage good decisions, help them when they are facing difficulties so they can learn and grow. At the same time, we need to give them the freedom to make their own choices without depending on approval, including ours.
Raising strong children is a lifelong endeavor. We don’t start teaching our children to take responsibility for their actions when they become teens; we start from the moment they are born because everything they hear, experience and see is going to shape them and affect their future.
We have an amazing impact on our children and it should be positive. That doesn’t mean that we will always get it right, because we won’t. Being a parent is the hardest thing we will ever do. We can’t compare ourselves to our friends or to the perfect families we see on TV. We need to know our family, know each member and create our own family style, allowing everyone to be who they are. No one has the secret formula to raise children. It hasn’t been defined; it changes as our children grow and it develops as we mature. It is a continuous learning process; a beautiful process.
When a child has a strong sense of self love, he or she will be ready to face peer pressure, bullying, criticism, rejection and so many other challenges that we hope they never have to encounter. They won’t only survive through difficulties but thrive and grow.
We won’t always be present to protect and guide our children, so we need to teach them to do these things on their own.
So, how can we teach our children to feel free to be who they are?
- Example: This may bring some pressure to us, but there’s no way around it. Our children see everything we do, hear everything we say and know us better than we imagine. Whether they want to or not, our children many times end up imitating what we do. What good it is to tell them to love what they do if they hear us complaining daily about our job? What good is it to teach them not to judge, yet we criticize anyone who seems “different”?
- Experiences: My son tried several sports before he found his love for tennis. That meant long hours of driving, waiting and of course, a monetary investment. But it was all worth it because he found his passion. My daughter always knew she wanted to act, and experiences in life have given her a wider view of things; a different perspective that she can take into the characters she plays. We all need experiences in life. We need to break the routine, try out new things. Children will benefit if they are exposed to different situations. Travel far and near, explore your city, visit museums, go to the theater, encourage visits to family members and conversations with them. Teach your children to search for what they love, and once they find it to dedicate themselves to it with discipline and joy.
- Advice: As parents, why do we establish rules in our house? To guide our children, to protect them, and to teach them. Rules are not bad, but sometimes we present them in a negative way to our children. More than a list of rules, children need advice and procedures so they can remember them later when situations arise. Limits are required and they need to be respected and followed, guidelines are the foundation so later children can make their own decisions without needing someone looking over their shoulders. There is no need for a power struggle at home; it has to be very clear that the parent is the authority and the guidelines established need to be seen in a positive way so they will add to our children’s growth and development. Rules can always be broken, but advice will be remembered.
- Unconditional love: Telling our children that our love for them will not change no matter what is one of the best things we can do. They need to hear this often so they see that we don’t base our love on their success, grades, accomplishments or anything they do. Children need to know that they will be loved, even if they make mistakes. They want us to be proud of them, that is why they hide the negative things they have done. But if they feel that they can come to us no matter what, a lot of positive can come out of a negative situation.
Children grow up fast and the time that they are home with us, when we can influence them the most goes by quickly. We need to take advantage of it. We can’t shelter our children from life, they need to see it with us so when they go out on their own they will be able to face it without stress, knowing that they can make a positive impact in the world being who they are meant to be and loving every minute of it.