Modern Parenting is Unsustainable
Even though your child is the center of your world, you are not the center of theirs
There is a trend in modern parenting that concerns me: parents giving their children the impression they know everything, whilst actually knowing nothing. If you ask me, we are dangling a carrot to nowhere. I say “we” because I am the parent of a 13 year old… and that is exactly how I felt for many years.
Many of us are parenting on a pendulum that has swung from the“out of sight, out of mind” parenting that we experienced, over to the“in sight and mind at all times” parenting that you see today. We want our kids in our sights and on our minds 24/7; so we know they are safe, so they know we love them, and, I suspect above all else, so we can convince ourselves we aren’t like our parents. However, I believe the pendulum has swung too far.
We’ve grossly misunderstood the lesson we were supposed to learn from our childhood. Our parents gave us freedom without unconditional love. What we often heard was “they don’t care what happens to me”. Now we give unconditional love without freedom (modern parents manage homework, schedules, college applications, friendships, etc.). What kids today often hear is “they think I’m useless”.
Did we really do all of this hard work for the message to our children to go from “we don’t care” to “you’re useless”? Yep, pretty much.
So what do we do now?
We find balance. We give unconditional love and autonomy. We let them manage their homework but we comfort them when they get penalized for not turning it in.
How do we do this without going insane?
We learn to become less enmeshed with our children. Here’s the unsustainable part: Let’s talk about the logistics of the parent-child relationship. To parents, children are our way of carrying on. Through our memories, our traditions, and our love. Of course they would be the center of our world… if all goes as designed, they will be a part of our world until we die. They are an incredibly important part of our legacy.
However, for children, if all goes as designed, they will have to live without you. Which means it is our job to raise them to be able to live without us. If we are the center of their universe this would be impossible. Therefore, this mutually-dependent model is unsustainable.
How do we create a more sustainable parenting model?
Create room for mistakes. Allow your children to make decisions, which means make mistakes, and it’s not the end of the world.
Separate yourself from your children. Stop looking at their losses as your losses, or their wins as your wins. Realize they are a rich combination of your influence as well as the influence of many other people and experiences… just as you are.
Live your own life. Have your own passions. Include your children in them or do them on your own. Just don’t forget to do things for the sake of wanting to do them. You’ll be modeling for your child that adulthood is fun, but you will also be honoring that little child inside of you who is still longing to feel noticed and valued.
Lastly, love watching your child’s journey. Don’t make assumptions or plans, just watch. Enjoy seeing them evolve for the sheer sake of seeing them evolve. You never know what will unfold, but since this human is the center of your universe I’m sure it will be magical if you’d only just watch.