How self-aware are you as a parent?
Lately I’ve been immersing myself in parenting books and books about empowering our children to become happy, confident and resilient individuals. During my reading, two things have happened; one is that I’ve noticed how many adults would benefit from thinking through some of the ideas I’m reading about, and secondly, it’s becoming crystal clear why our younger generation are the way they are, and I think much of it goes back to point one.
I am a firm believer that parents are doing the best job they know how, but let’s face it, life is busy. The family dynamics have changed. More often there are two parents working, children are being left on a more regular basis to their technological devices, and parents are struggling with poor behaviour and a lack of respect from their kids. Often to compensate for working long hours, parents try to give their kids more things. We think that maybe Tommy is badly behaved because he’s tired, we feel bad that we are exhausted at the end of the day and not wanting to play, so we buy Tommy a new toy, or let him download a new app. We exist in survival mode, trying to get through one day, then the next. Life feels like Groundhog Day and we wonder why we aren’t enjoying parenting as much as we thought we would and then we feel guilty about that too.
As a teacher, I see kids with poor behaviour often. It’s even simple things like kids saying ‘what?’ when you ask them something they haven’t heard, instead of ‘pardon?’
It’s kids walking past a shelf and knocking over a container of dice and stopping momentarily but then continuing to walk off, because someone else will pick it up.
It’s kids being asked to do a job and responding with ‘why do I have to do it?’ instead of just helping out because that’s what we do.
Whether you like it or not, this stuff is coming from home.
Every time you’re too busy to pick your child up on their manners, every time you talk to someone with disdain in front of your child, they’re learning what is acceptable. If you think swearing in front of your child is okay, then you are teaching your child the norm. Your child may not swear around you, but they’re using it with their friends and they think they’re acting grown up and cool… really? Is that what we want? A generation of potty mouths?
It’s not just that though. Are you kind when you speak to others or about others? Are you aware of when your children are listening and when they’re not? How do you deal with not getting your way? Do you lose it when you give way to a car and they don’t acknowledge you with a wave? Do you react angrily on the road? Do you struggle to let go of things that have happened? Well guess what? Apples never fall far from their trees. We are damaging our children!
Self-awareness and the ability to reflect and take responsibility for our behaviour is so fundamentally important, yet these skills are possessed by so few of us.
Last week I was in a classroom where 2 young girls had had a disagreement. Neither one of them believed they had done anything wrong, both blamed the other. I experience this at home with my 8-year-old daughter often, it’s always someone else’s fault. I try to use the analogy of a fire. Someone can light a fire, but without oxygen the fire won’t burn. When we are reactive to others, we become the oxygen that allows a situation to ignite. We may not be responsible for lighting the fire, but we always have control over how we respond.
As parents it is our job to model resilience for our children. We must show them how to react when things don’t go their way, and teach them how to deal with inevitable disappointment. We set the bar for all of this, and from where I’m standing, I think we need to start raising that bar a little higher.
There’s a lesson in that for all of us.
What do you think?