What do I want for my kids? Who do I want them to be? What do I want from this parenting thing? What is my job as a parent? Why are we doing this? All good questions to ask if you are in the parenting game.
It took me a few years to figure out what I wanted from being a Dad, but I think I’ve finally nailed it down. I want to raise strong, loving kids, that know who they are, know what they want, and aren’t afraid to go get it. In short, I want to empower my kids. I want to be clear though; I’m not trying to steer my kids into anything. I don’t have an attachment to their academic success or financial success. My ultimate goal is to help them live out the true expression of who they are. I want to trust who they already are, not some idea of who I think they are, or should be.
In trusting our kids, fully trusting them, I believe something magical happens. I believe that when we embrace, and celebrate our kids for who they truly are, they grow up feeling whole. Someone who feels whole, complete and enough is going to do good things. This person will do good things for herself, her community and for the world she inhabits.
I want to raise secure kids, confident kids. I figure the best way to do this it to honour them for who they are, and not undermine them or their feelings. I want to help my kids be their best, for themselves and for the world. It is the person who does not feel good about himself that we have to worry about. So many antagonistic, or antisocial behaviours are really just manifestations of insecurity. Insecurity shows up all over the place, from kindergarten teacher to president. Here is the gag though: no body knows it, because we are all too insecure to see it. Ha!
Insecurity can cause problems in our family relationships, our spousal relationships, our work relationship and so on. How many silly arguments have been had because of it?Our behaviour is a reflection of how we feel inside. If we feel insecure or deficient, we aren’t going to be at our best. It’ll show up in our day to day. We might be defensive, combative, or passive aggressive as a result. Multiply this by 7 billion and imagine a world of insecure people interacting with one another. A tall order if we expect everyone to get along, take care of the planet, and play nice.
A silly argument with a spouse isn’t so bad, I agree. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg in my opinion. How many marriages have ended? How many family members have stopped speaking to one another? How much violence has been perpetrated? How much racism and sexism? How much greed? How much fear? How much not believing in yourself?
How much of this can be tied back to insecurity? All of it, I believe.
When we are emotionally insecure we are more likely to hurt others. In this state, we might even convince ourselves that hurting other people is the answer. It never works though. Only love wins out. Yes, insecurity can result in people lashing out, but also in people withdrawing. It has ties to low self-worth, anxiety and depression. People who feel insecure can find themselves attached to someone, or something, that they think will make them feel whole. It is seen in addiction as well. Personally, I don’t want to increase the chances of my children experiencing any of this. I want them to thrive, not suffer. It’s not hard to see how this all relates to parenting.
For those of you confused about why I’m going on about this, I’ll explain. Sometimes it’s important to consider the consequences of our behaviour. This is especially true for raising kids, as I believe it is a high stakes game. Our behaviour is constantly being watched and imitated. Our words and tone of voice can lift our kids up, or it can cut deep. I understand that there are many factors to consider when discussing mental and emotional health, but family of origin is one of them, and it’s a big one. It’s not to say that if we aren’t perfect every we are going to ruin our kids. But what we do does matter.
When I realized all of this, I was forced to ask myself some important questions. Am I raising emotionally secure and healthy kids? Are they securely attached to us? Are we focusing on a good relationship with them first and foremost? The answer for me was sobering. I was unwittingly focusing on obedience at all costs, which came to understand is actually detrimental to emotional security. I thought I was doing the right thing, but when I examined my true beliefs, I realized I was not. I wasn’t doing the right thing for the relationship I wanted to have with my child. I wasn’t doing the right thing to empower my kids to be their absolute best. I was yelling, threatening, hitting, shaming, comparing, bribing. I finally understood that this would come at a cost. It sunk in, “This is not empowerment and will not lead to secure children.” This will lead to childhood wounds that last a long time. It was the opposite of what I really wanted.
Thinking about this helps remind me of how I want to be as a parent. It helps shape my actions. The last thing I want is my kids feeling insecure, or acting out their insecurities. I want my kids to thrive, and kick butt… in the most loving way possible. At the end of the day, I want to do my part in helping my kids feel secure, confident and good enough. Aside from keeping them alive, this is my number one job as a Dad.