This is Day 26 in the series: 31 days on Living with ADHD, Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder: What We Have Tried, What Has Worked, What Hasn’t Worked, and Never Giving Up. Click here to see all the posts in this series.
This might seem really obvious but I think it helps to say it out loud. Find a path where your child can succeed. Find what your child is good at, what they are interested in, where they can be successful, and help them to pursue that dream.
I think too often we can get tied up either 1) pushing our children to live our dreams or 2) focusing too much on the negatives. We becoming so absorbed with all their shortcomings and struggles that we can fail to notice where they flourish.
1) Seeking Validation through our Children
If you have ever seen the show “Toddlers and Tiaras” or seen a father intensely pushing his child in sports then you have seen first hand parents seeking validation through their children. A recent study tried to investigate this parent child relationship. In an article on everydayhealth.com regarding this study it said:
“Researchers said that the more a father or mother sees the child as part of themselves, the more likely they are to want the child to succeed in making the parent’s dreams come true.”
“Researchers found that parents who reflected more on their own lost dreams were most likely to want their children to fulfill these goals, if they also identified strongly with the idea that their child was a part of themselves.”
“When there are mutual interests — such as involvement in sports or entertainment — that can provide a very important and positive bonding, starting in childhood and even continuing into adult life,” Reiss said. “However, risks occur when the parent intentionally or unintentionally, overtly or covertly, pressures or coerces the child to live out the parent’s unrequited dreams, rather than following the child’s own course and ambition.”
“A child has to be free to follow his own calling—not the calling of his or her parents,“ Klow said.
David Klow, a therapist in Chicago suggests we as parents need to be fulfilling our own dreams, have our own aspirations outside of our children, and really make time for ourselves. If we become too focused on our kids then we can have the tendency to think of them as an extension of ourselves which according to the research makes us more susceptible to push our kids to fill in our own shortcomings.
Before researching this I never thought I would be one of those parents that would intensely push their kids to feel better about myself. I have pretty good self esteem. But when I read that the warning signs are investing too much time and energy into your kids and never taking time for yourself and your own achievements ….I started to feel a little uncomfortable. I know there have been times I have been embarrassed by my kids and wanted them to be different. It is something I have been slowly learning to come to grips with. I need to worry more about my kids’ (and my own) well-being before worrying about what other people think (especially strangers in the grocery store who have no clue about our situation).
Making time for myself, to help me keep in perspective that the children are autonomous apart from me, is a good first step in keeping this danger of seeking validation through my kids at bay.
Another great article in the Washington Post on the same topic was about getting parents to back off the parenting arms race. McLean points out that “Students should be doing something they love; they should be able to support themselves; and they should give something back. That’s authentic success.” She says this in light of too many parents pushing their kids to achieve certain academic goals.
There is a part of me as a parent that feels like a failure that Mr Rockstar at age 6 is only starting to read and has a long way to go. But when I look at the data “Two major studies confirmed the value of play vs. teaching reading skills to young children. Both compared children who learned to read at 5 with those who learned at 7 and spent their early years in play-based activities. Those who read at 5 had no advantage. Those who learned to read later had better comprehension by age 11 because their early play experiences improved their language development.” truthabouteducation.wordpress.com. So in reality it is not a bad thing he isn’t reading yet and I just need to get over wanting to compare my children to others.
2) Focusing on the Negatives
It is so easy to just see what is hard. To not slow down and soak in your child’s smiles or embraces. To only see all the times they aren’t listening, make messes, act inappropriately, or are behind educationally. Especially with Mr Rockstar I feel we often take two steps forward and one step back.
A couple months ago I came home late from a mom’s night out. When I got home at 9:30PM everyone was asleep…..or so I thought. I was looking forward to going to bed and getting some much needed rest. Imagine my dismay when I heard some pattering of feet and saw Mr Rockstar. I just wanted to cry seeing him. I was so tired and I thought for sure it was going to take hours to get him back to sleep. Whoa is me 🙁
As I picked him up to take him back to bed I said, “Mr Rockstar I really need you to go back to bed. Mommy is feeling a little sick and needs to rest.”
His reply was, “Mommy I am sick too.”
I rolled my eyes and said “Really? What is sick?”
He said, “I am momma sick.”
Me: “What is momma sick?”
Mr R: “I need to snuggle with my momma and I will feel all better.”
Suddenly I realized I was missing the positives of parenting by focusing on the negatives. I decided I would snuggle with him as long as he needed. Thankfully it was only 10 minutes and he slept through the night. What if instead of talking to him my first response was to yell or some other harsh response? It is how I felt inside but I knew I shouldn’t. I am glad I didn’t and I was able to comfort him.
A child is like a seed. We have to find the right soil, the right amount of water, and the correct sunlight for them to bloom. Another analogy would be that a child is a spark. A tiny glowing ember and if we provide the right kind of rich environment and if we blow ever so gently it will ignite into a gorgeous life sustaining fire. Be careful to not let negativity crush that tiny ember.
3) Find What They Are Good At
We want to set our children up for success. Help them find a path that will work for them. To do this we need to:
- Stop forcing them to be on the path we want them to be on because of our own selfish desires.
- Quit constantly putting them down.
- Find what they are good at and encourage and guide them.
What is your child good at? What are they interested in? How can you foster that interest? How can you help them pursue this to its best advantage?
Take a step back and just observe your child. What can they do for hours? For Mr Rockstar it is almost anything gross motor skill related. He loves to climb, bike, hike, canoe, etc and has since a very young age. Miss Tomboy is interested in all living creatures and learning her letters. Miss Princess is into fashion. They are all young but clearly show their own personalities. I can’t wait to see who they turn out to be when the grow up!
What are your kids good at? How can you create a path for them to pursue their dreams?