In last week’s entry, I discussed the reaction parents sometimes feel when they are watching their children play sports or do almost any activity they want to see them do well.
It is easy to feel disappointment, or other unpleasant feelings, start to bubble to the surface as their children behave differently than they expect in any given activity.
Many parents begin to think about all the time and money they have poured into this activity, and they start thinking of all the other things they could be doing rather than standing here watching their child whine, complain, quit, or disappoint them.
These moments are important moments in the raising of children. If parents are not careful, these moments can begin planting seeds in both of their hearts that will grow into weeds capable of transforming the parent’s and the child’s image of themselves.
Here are some steps, I almost said easy steps, but nothing about this is easy, to help parents not get sucked into summing up their kids and themselves in these unpleasant moments.
1. Stay Calm – We have heard this kind of wisdom over and over again in our lifetime, but it is easier said than done and its importance cannot be overstated. As we watch our child display behavior that is disappointing to us, we must make a concerted effort to physiologically relax so we can respond to the moment rather than react.
When we react to the moment, we are completely powerless to change the moment because we have given all of our power away and now the unpleasant feelings dictate to us the next step.
2. Don’t take it personal – We have to remind ourselves that this moment really isn’t about us, it is about our kids. They are not out their intentionally failing, daydreaming, goofing off, crying, etc. (there are too many to name here), just to get back at us.
They are not trying to crush our dreams for their future athletic success on purpose. Once we can view the situation more objectively than subjectively, we can then step back from wanting to blame our child and instead come alongside them to help.
3. Notice rather than judge – It is so easy for us to sit on the sideline and start reading our child’s mind. We can play out all of their reasons and all of their thoughts so easily and then use this information to draw quick and fast judgments of our child’s performance and normally the verdict is that it was not good enough.
We need to admit that no matter how well we know our children we actually cannot read their minds. We can make assumptions, but we don’t need to be reminded of what assuming does to us or them.
We need to intentionally just observe and notice, sometimes it helps if we take the viewpoint of a detective and watch with curiosity. While we are doing that, we can remind ourselves that every child loves to feel successful and participate in activities that are fun and fulfilling.
When we keep that in mind, we can possibly help them problem-solve some of the issues they are experiencing to help them achieve a sense of personal satisfaction.
4. Remember there is more to your child than meets the eye – In these moments, we risk getting into the habit of believing a lie about our children, a lie that the pervasive culture will whisper in their ear over and over again, a lie that parents must battle in their home and in their hearts, that their children are defined by what they do instead of seeing what they do in light of who they are.
The reason why children (and adults as well) love to watch super hero movies is because every character has a secret that there is more to them than meets the eye. Mild-mannered and dorky Clark Kent is really Superman, arrogant and spoiled Bruce Wayne is really Batman, and it goes on and on. It is a truth we know about ourselves and about our children that what we see our children do is barely scratching the surface of who they are.
In a study done on kids throughout their school years, they found that more than 50% of middle-school children don’t like who they are and by the time they graduate high school only 10% do.
The reason for this is because as they get older and they are trying to form their identity, they begin to believe that they are what they do, and over and over the message they receive is that what they do isn’t good enough.
As parents, we must continually help them understand there is more to them than meets the eye, but first we have to believe it ourselves. We must not let our disappointed face lead to them feeling like they are a disappointment, we must be careful that our reactions to their mistakes don’t lead them to believe they are a failure.
We all know this is easier said than done, but I believe it is not only worth trying but it is necessary for the hearts and minds of our children.