Take a moment to picture your ideal child. Is the child polite, thoughtful and kind? What about obedient, open to your directions and honest? Does the child get good grades? Is he or she helpful and socialized?
Most—if not all—parents have a picture in their mind of what their child will look like, as well as how they will behave growing up. Many times, we think back on our own history and try to predict who our children will be. For instance, I was naive to think that because I was compliant and self-motivated that my children would follow my footsteps. That fairytale thinking died quickly when my son came. With him, I was a regular caller to poison control and a frequent flyer at the emergency rooms for stitches. I was on a first-name basis at “Toys’R’Us” where I had to buy car seat after car seat trying to find one that my Houdini-child could not escape from. And I became a handy-woman attempting to double child-proof anything that could be opened or crawled on. As you can see, my ideal-child-dream was shattered.
In thinking back, I laugh at his antics and curiosity. I smile when I hear his child-voice in my head asking questions and making declarative sentences like, “Me and Lissa will go play in mud and be Indians!” My firstborn has ADHD, is gifted, hyperactive (did I mention that already?), funny, hard-working and follows his own dreams, not mine. It didn’t take me long to realize my children are not my dream children: they are unique individuals with different personalities, challenges and gifts, and I love them all the more for it.
One way to free yourself of your anger, disappointment and fear about your child or teen is to quickly acknowledge when you are living in your dream world. It may sound harsh but the sooner you realize the person before you is your real child, the sooner you can parent more effectively.
Six steps to parent your real child; not the dream child.
1. Write out your vision of your dream child. Think about it, smile about your dream and turn the page and write about who your child really is.
2. Observe the strengths of your child. Does your he make friends easily? Is she good in Math, Science, or History? Is your child good in sports? Iss he or she affectionate?
3. Write out the growing edges that your child has. Is your child bossy? Is your child impulsive? Is your child sensitive or does he or she have a learning problem?
4. Take your list of “growing edges” and re-label them. “Bossy” can be re-framed as a “leader”. “Impulsive” can be re-labeled as “spontaneous” or “flexible”. The “sensitive” child can be “intuitive”. If you bump up against a part of your child’s growing edges that may cause harm or is socially unacceptable, put a star beside it or underline it.
5. The habits you starred or underlined are the habits you can help him or her develop into successful traits. Work on only one habit at a time and do not become emotionally charged about them. Parent from your head.
6. Love them unconditionally no matter what. This does not mean that you can excuse them when they misbehave. But if they know that their parents love and support them, they will have the confidence to go out into the world as stronger individuals in the future.