When our kids are born – and perhaps even moreso, before they’re born – we have certain expectations of what they’ll be like.
We understand the whole nature versus nurture thing, but secretly have this idea that we can still mold them into the people we want them to be…at least a little.
Sometimes our expectations are based on what we’ve seen on TV or movies or in books, or on what we’ve seen of our friends’ kids.
And sometimes we just accumulate these unconscious expectations over the course of our lives.
Sometimes these expectations are related to our hypothetical child and his or her future behaviors: “When I have a kid, he/she will never do that”; and sometimes our expectations are related to the way we think we’ll parent: “When I’m a mom/dad, I’m going to just keep doing my thing, and they’ll learn to adapt to my/our lifestyle”.
And sometimes, I think we expect our kids to be strangely like us.
For instance, when I was born, I had loads of thick, curly black hair. As I got older, I was brunette and petite, and personality-wise, I was introverted, independent and rather anxious.
Somehow I expected that my children would inherit these traits. Although it has never bothered me one bit, both my kids are tall, blond, and much braver than I ever was as a child.
These are easy expectations for me to get past. In fact, I don’t need to “get past” them at all. My kids being blond, or brave, or tall really have no impact on our day-to-day lives.
But what about all those expectations we have about how our kids will behave, or what their personality will be like?
What if we expect our kids to be calm, or compliant, or easygoing?
What if we imagine our kids will frequently give us hugs, and tell us they love us?
Or what if we expect our kids to be happy most of the time…or at least not outright grumpy most of the time?
The truth is, these aren’t things we have any control over.
Kids are born with their own unique set of temperament traits; and while we have a tremendous responsibility and power to help them grow into who they are, we can’t change them.
And in fact, my mission is to help parents realize that we really, truly shouldn’t want to change them.
These kids are born with special gifts that make them tremendous human beings.
And while this can be hard to recognize during the challenging early years (when their personalities are still growing into their bodies), it’s so important for us to accept, understand and embrace our little people now…so they can accept, understand and embrace themselves, just as they are.
I’m going to end this post with an excerpt from a book that has had a profound impact on the way I view kids – especially spirited ones.
If we can help our kids become themselves – rather than who the world expects them to be – we’re giving them the greatest gift we could possibly give.
“If you doubt that we all arrive in this world with gifts and as a gift, pay attention to an infant or very young child. A few years ago, my daughter and her newborn baby came to live with me for a while. Watching my granddaughter from her earliest days on earth, I was able, in my early 50’s, to see something that had eluded me as a 20-something parent.
My granddaughter arrived in the world as this kind of person, rather than that, or that, or that. She did not show up as raw material to be shaped into whatever image the world might want her to take. She arrived with her own gifted form, with the shape of her own sacred soul….
In those early days of my granddaughter’s life, I began observing the inclinations and proclivities that were planted in her at birth. I noticed – and I still notice – what she likes and what she dislikes. What she is drawn towards and repulsed by. How she moves, what she does, what she says.
Remember who you were when you first arrived, and reclaim the gift of true self. We arrive in this world with birthright gifts. Then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them, letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are. Expectations by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood, but fit us into slots: in families, schools, workplaces, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability….we are disabused of original giftedness in the first half of our lives. Then, if we are awake…we spend the second half trying to recover and reclaim the gift we once possessed.”
– Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak.
I recognize you are likely in the stage of trying to cope with your child’s big emotions – and the ensuing defiance, power struggles and meltdowns. I would love to help you find practical, effective ways to deal with these behaviors, while honouring your child’s unique temperament. Contact me to let me know what you’re struggling with, and let’s chat about how I can help!