What is our ideal role as parents? What if it isn’t what we’ve been taught? What if it isn’t to be the disciplinarian – keeping them in line. Or the one who “molds them into model citizens”. What if our ideal role is to be the safe person in a crazy world, that they can count on when they need it?
About 10 years ago, I found myself driving a sixteen-year-old daughter of a close friend of mine home after she had been babysitting my kids. Somehow, we got on the conversation of sex… and somehow I ended up asking her if she had had sex yet. She looked at me aghast and said none-too-forcefully, “WHAT? Of course not! As if I’d have sex without talking to my mom first!””WHAT?????????????????” is what rang in my head!!!!I couldn’t believe it. What teenager would EVER talk to their parents about sex or ANYTHING that they were going through as teens. I had a great relationship with my parents. But I never could have talked about anything like that with them. I was absolutely gobsmacked!! How did this happen? What kind of relationship did my friend have with her kids that they trusted her so deeply with such sensitive topics???And so I asked my friend… Basically she told me that her number one priority was to have a genuine heart-connection with her kids. She didn’t care what they did or didn’t do. All that mattered was that they could trust her, she could trust them and that they had a genuine connection. Everything else was irrelevant… Hmmmm..The other big thing I observed in my friend was that she never “lorded-over” her kids. Maybe it was because she was a single mom of three and didn’t have the back-up – the “united front” for the kids… (which is another later discussion).. But as much as she was always mom, she never pretended to know better and she didn’t preach to them. She just listened and really cared.
And so this changed the way I chose to parent. I wanted to be that safe place where my kids could always turn. I wanted that intimate, genuine connection with these beautiful souls that are so close to me. I wanted them to be able to tell me anything.The first step became simply getting my head around it.. changing my inner programming about what the role of a parent is. And sometimes it’s a challenge because much of the world isn’t with you on this.For example: Your child’s report card is sent home. Maybe they are struggling in a subject. Maybe you even talked to the teacher. The question is, what is your role here? The education system asks us to “be involved in our childrens’ education”. Now as much as there can be a very positive aspect to this, in this case, this asks the teacher to ask the parents to “clamp down” on the child’s study habits… make sure they’re doing the work… make sure they don’t go out with their friends until their work is done, etc. But this is just parents acting as an arm of the school. What is our bigger role?Let’s imagine it from the child’s perspective. They are struggling in school. They don’t understand the work. Deep down, they feel stupid and embarrassed. Maybe they are too shy to ask for help. Maybe they don’t want to be called a brown-noser. Maybe they are feeling ostracized by their peers. Maybe they’re being bullied at lunch. Maybe.. maybe… maybe… Who knows what’s going on at school…. really…
As a parent, all we know is that they got a D in math… The teacher wants us to clamp down on them at home to bring the mark up… But what is our role really? What does our child really need?
This is where we have a chance to connect with them. They don’t need someone else telling them about their failure. They know that they got the D. They already think that they’re stupid. They know they should try harder….. They don’t need someone else telling them.
This is also where we have to be very clear just HOW INFLUENTIAL we are in their lives!! We are their parents. We love them more than anyone else on the planet. The heart-strings between us are deep and very real.
So, what if we honoured those heart-strings and truly treated them like they were the absolutely most wonderful people we knew? What if we treated them in a way that showed them exactly how much we love them? (because if you’re like me, I can’t even describe how much I love my kids..)
What if we took the opportunity to sit down with them and just talk about how they were feeling? What if we put ourselves in their shoes? Instead of saying “What are we going to do about this mark?”, what if we sat down, took a deep breath and said, “Well that sucks!”.
What if we didn’t have any big answers? What if we didn’t have the perfect lecture to make it all right?
What if we said instead, “Hey, so what’s going on? Anything weird happening at school? You’re really having a tough time in this, eh?… Hmmm… wanna cup of tea?”
What if we didn’t have to have all the answers? What if the goal was actually just connecting with these wonderful kids?
Because when this is the goal and we don’t have to solve all of their problems, they are more likely to open up to us and tell us what’s going on. If they know that they aren’t going to get in trouble or get a lecture or whatever else we have in our arsenal, then we have a chance of actually having a conversation about their life… about what is real and challenging.
And each time this happens, it sets up a trust between us. And then it’s easier and easier to share as the years go on… and having those years of trust in place before they become teens really helps…
And honestly, in the end, what more do we want than a wonderful life-long relationship with these amazing people?