We are parenting our children out of fear of failure.
We don’t want to be the parents that f*#k up. The ones who have children who are bullys, addicts, no-hopers, depressive and anxious.
We want our children to be our most glorious representation of who we are. We want to show the world we have an A+ in parenting skills by producing a smart, extra-curriculared, popular child. An athlete, a math whizz, a literary genius.
We want our children reading from two, we want them wielding a golf stick by three, we want them counting, singing, tap-dancing, scoring goals, playing scales, play-dating, behaving with impeccable manners to show off who we are.
Because we are scared that if we don’t. We fail.
We are media scarred and success-focused.
Two problems with this:
1 – the media scarring is because we let what it says affect our sense of protection over our children which then effects our parenting.
2 – the success that we are focused on is only because we don’t want to fail.
So we parent. We parent hard.
Parenting of our generation believes boosting self esteem comes from constant praise and winning competitions.
We are helicopters. Tigers. Fiercely protective and always there. We are authoritarian, permissive, authoritative.
All in one day sometimes.
We get on the ground with them and push so that they don’t know what it feels like to lose.
We spend thousands of hours making sure they practice everything they are interested in so we don’t miss recognising and developing their talent.
We play-date like speed dates so that they don’t miss out on having friends.
We all just want our kids to be happy right?
Happiness relies on their ability to be able to pick themselves up after they have fallen.
Life gets messy and we can’t shield them from that. The ones who victor are those who have resilience, who can stand in their own two feet who have connections and independence, the ones that are taught about their emotions, self and are given tools to move through the tougher emotions like disappointment, shame, embarrassment and anger.
Our first instinct is to protect and if we see someone reading better, playing better, or scoring higher than our kids, we went to right that wrong. Because we think the blame is on ourselves. We think that our child might get hurt by recognising that the other child is achieving more.
If they don’t lose sometimes now when the stakes are small, if we always protect them from it, then they are going to fall apart when life hits them with it’s full force.
We are so terrified of letting something go wrong that we analyse, assess and categorise our children.
We are teaching them to compare but comparison is one of the most fear-inducing and anger-producing analytical skill you can give to anyone. People judge because they are scared. Scared to fail, scared to be less than, scared that they are not enough. So they need to look at others and see their failures to make themselves feel better, and that is where bullying comes in.
And this is what we are doing wrong.
So how do we make it right?
How many of us ask our kids how kind our kid was that day? What did they do to help someone? To make someone smile? What did they learn that could benefit someone else? What were they most interested in?
Let’s stop asking them who they played with, what they learned because we are asking out of fear. Fear that we may uncover a hurt that we can’t make better. Let’s ask them instead what lit them up that day ? Their favourite moment? What they are grateful for.
What would happen if our children stopped being told by us to always focus on themselves?
Our ego-centric society would start to change. People would start looking out for one an another. Using their talents to help rather than to provide them with status points.
It starts with us.
The other day I learned that my son had been giving one of the kids the “cold shoulder”. One of his mates and a good friend of mine’s little boy. A couple of weeks before that the boy had accidentally hit him with a stick when they were playing in the park. I saw this little boy apologise profusely to my son who was dragging the drama out a little. I thought it was all over but apparently not. My son had been telling him that they were no longer friends. When my son got hurt in the playground, this little boy ran over to see if he was ok and once again he was told by my son they were not friends.
I didn’t know any of this until after and when I learned this I was embarrased, furious and upset. I told my son that he was being unkind,to apologise and to think of how he would feel if that had happened to him. I invited the boy over for a playdate that afternoon expecting drama but all was fine. I remembered being an unforgiving child and I knew this was my fault.
I was reacting to an incident and I hadn’t been proactive in teaching him understanding, empathy, kindness and putting any kind of value on it.
The way we value things are shown in the questions we are asking our children.
Who did you play with? for me translates to “please don’t have been left alone on the playground and be hurt and lonely” and my other questions like, “how many points did you score” “what did you learn” are all gauges to tell if he is doing ok. If there are areas I need to practice with him so that even if he is not the star, he is not the kid that can’t kick the ball or recite that passage in the book.
So I’m changing my questions. I believe that knowing yourself, being kind and of service to others is one of the greatest gifts ever given. In kindness and service you find pleasure and satisfaction – what you give out to the world you receive back. In knowing yourself you understand what you, as a unique human being, can give.
Let’s start asking our children:
What are you grateful for?
What really made you happy today?
Who were you kind to? Who could you be more kind to? Do you think anyone you know is sad or having a hard time? If you see someone alone on the playground, do you ask them to play with your group?
What was your favourite moment?
We need to start parenting out of love. Forgetting the media, forgetting the comparisons, forgetting the judgement, looking outside of ourselves and teaching our children the same thing.
The world is bigger than just our potential super-star. The world needs more love, more protection, more kindness and more people to be of service to others.
And we need to start parenting that way.