We all want our children to grow up to be happy, healthy, successful and good people. Yet, every now and again they do something that surprises us – sometimes delightful, occasionally disappointing. Have you ever stepped back, shaken your head and wondered, ‘Where did that come from?’
As the mother of a gorgeous, healthy, successful and fun-loving 20 year old (yes, of course I’m biased!), I’m pondering with the wonderful benefit of hindsight. If I’m really honest, there are some things I’d do differently if I’d realised what my beautiful daughter was actually learning from me as she grew up.
I’m insanely proud of her and like the parent of an Olympic champion, when she achieves something she’s worked hard for, I cheer loudly. When life deals her a hard blow or she’s really struggling, my heart breaks. Regardless, much of how she deals with life’s ups and downs comes from a healthy dose of my great and not so great traits!
Children learn far more from watching what we do than hearing what we say
For every positive our children learn from us there’s a potential down side and many of us simply aren’t aware of it while we’re busy raising them. With positives and negatives, the life lessons parents teach are like flipping a coin with heads and tails. I’m no parenting expert, simply a mum with many friends who are parents, and here are the flipsides of what I’ve learnt:
On Being Goal Oriented
Heads: Whether it’s juggling two jobs to pay off your mortgage, working 60+ hours a week to climb a career ladder, running a marathon or keeping your house tidy, your children learn that focus, action and persistence get things done and achieve success.
Tails: There’s a fine line between achievement and obsession. It’s easy to lose perspective as you focus on what needs to be done, often to the exclusion of all else. Your children may actually be learning how to over-think, over-prepare and invest far more than is actually required to get the job done. Anxiety and worry are the constant companions of over achievers.
On Being Popular
Heads: There’s always someone popping in, the phone’s always ringing and invitations to weekends away, sporting and social events crowd your calendar. Life is buzzing and it feels great to be validated, needed and connected.
Tails: Spreading yourself thin across many friends may be teaching your children how to create somewhat superficial relationships. The reality is that most of us have only a few really close friendships that are truly important and need to be carefully nurtured.
On Being Constantly Busy
Heads: In today’s fast paced world it’s great to have so much to do! There’s a wonderful sense of satisfaction when you’ve got lots of ticks on your list and survived another busy day. Your children are learning to multi-task, be flexible and highly organised and cram as much into their one short life as they possibly can.
Tails: With precious little down time, your over scheduled children may also be hard wiring high stress and hyperactivity at the cost of learning how to relax, unwind and simply ‘be’. When the focus is on doing more rather than only doing what’s important, overload and overwhelm are constant.
If you’re reading this thinking it’s a ‘no win’ damned if you do / damned if you don’t conundrum, relax – there is an easy solution.
Simply be aware and consciously choose what you want them to learn
There’s no absolute right or wrong way to raise children and the truth is we all do the best we can with what we’ve got, based on our values, beliefs and own experience of growing up. Thankfully, as your children grow up they get to choose what to keep, what to modify and what to ditch based on who they want to be.
In the meantime, be an intentional role model. Use your inner resources of wisdom, hindsight, insight and forsight to do a quick, honest stock-take of your behaviours and actions. Decide which admirable qualities you do want your children to learn. Consciously choose what you’d rather they didn’t and give yourself permission to let it go. Then act consistently and intentionally every day.
Writing this blog, I bravely asked the 'apple of my eye and bain of my life' for one important thing she’s actually learnt from me. Here’s what my ‘mini me’ emailed back!Nothing just gets handed to you. If you really want it, you have to put in the effort. At the end of the day the outcome doesn’t even matter, because you’ll be able to say you did the absolute best that you could.
Regardless of how old they are, It's never too early or late to ask your child/ren, "What’s one important lesson you've learnt from me?" You may be surprised!
Please share – I'd love to know what your child has learnt from you.