Children are not meant to be tiny clones of us. I’ll say it again, because it’s critical that you get this. Your children are NOT meant to be tiny clones of you! Ouch. That realization can be a painful one at times. You, as parents, want to show your beloved children how to live in this world. You want to influence their decisions. You want to give them good advice. You want them to like the music you like. You want to influence them politically, spiritually, and socially. After all, you have been charged with their care and well-being. Shouldn’t they be formed in your image? These little people belong to us and it’s our job to make sure they turn out right. Not exactly. Your children don’t actually belong to you. Possessions belong to us. Money belongs to us. Car keys belong to us. But not children.
In order to be a truly great parent, you must realize that your children have their own purpose in this world. Their individual life is sacred and must be supported and validated by you. So many parents get this wrong. They believe that, somehow, these little humans belong to them and that it is the their job to mold the child into what the parent wants the child to be. This could not be further from the truth. Discard this lie. It is, in fact, a lie. This is where so many of us, as parents, go wrong. When we view these small humans as “ours” and as little people who need to grow up to be just like us, we rob our children of the life they were intended to live. Think of your child’s life as a wild flower. You don’t really know what it’s going to look like or be like once it is grown, but you still water it and give it sunlight and love. You don’t try to make the wildflower be a rose or a tulip or a sunflower. You just let it be what it was meant to be. One of my favorite quotes is by poet Kahlil Gibran. Wiser words were never spoken:
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and thought they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”
It is a sacred job to be a parent. Be careful with your children. Think of each person’s life as a sacred spiritual journey. Only the Universe knows what your child’s purpose is for this human experience. Your child’s life is a sacred instrument in the world. Your jobs are to keep them safe, allow them to experience the consequences of life, and to validate their feelings. One example of validation is when a young child comes to you and says, “Adam is being mean.”
Your initial response might be to say, “No, he isn’t. He’s just trying to let you know…” Be very, very careful when your children come to you and express their feelings. You are the person who can most validate their feelings. If you do not validate their feelings, they will grow up lacking strong self-esteem and a solid identity. When you say, “No, he isn’t…” what your child “learns” is that her perceptions and feelings are incorrect and that she cannot trust herself. She then begins to doubt her gut instincts.
A better course of action would be to respond with something like, “I’m sorry, sweetheart. What happened?” This allows your child to feel heard and to learn that you are a safe place to come when the world is hard. Letting her know that you care about her feelings will cause her to open up to you and share more of the painful experience. It’s really what adults do when they pay a therapist to listen and validate their feelings during a mid-life crisis, for example. By validating your child’s feelings, you are allowing your child to express the hurt. Most of the time, children (and adults) don’t need answers. We just need a friendly listener.
Once your child has expressed her emotions and has had the opportunity to explain the details of the painful situation, you may then try to steer them in a good direction or help them see the truth of the situation if the truth is different than what they experienced. In any event, it is crucial that you first are actively listening and validating them. You will not regret it.