Parents, more than anything, you are models. From early on your children learn from what you say and do, and what you don’t. They will emulate your choices or reject them, but those choices are in reaction to you, not sourcing from their authentic selves.
In an old family photo, I see myself as a four-year old sitting next to my mother with my hands placed on my knees, exactly as she did. I wonder how much of my life, and in how many ways, I have either mirrored her choices or done the opposite, rather than exploring my own.
What if we, as parents, strived more to support our children in expressing their authentic selves? We all might be better off, allowing them more space to teach us through their original thinking and creativity. Commonly we tend to think that our experiences make us wiser even though in many instances we have not examined the validity of our beliefs about them.
- How much do we respect our children’s voices?
- How open are we to their ideas?
- How often do we listen to them and let them lead their way?
- How much do we impose what we think is best for them?
- How do we react when they resist?
I raise these questions because to me, authenticity is the key to happiness for both children and adults. Yet children depend on their parents, looking to them for love, guidance and protection. Since the ultimate decision-making rests with parents, children often need to compromise their innate wisdom when their ideas are not given sufficient merit.
We think we know what is best for our children, but can we know what motivates them from within? Can we know what is best for them without deeply listening to their dreams, feelings, interests and talents? And how can we offer them strength when our minds are cluttered by denial and avoidance of our own vulnerabilities?
Few parents suppress their children intentionally. It is most common that, intending to protect them from the pain that we experienced, we unconsciously maintain excessive control.
I have felt the pain of children’s voices drowned out by parents’ insistence in therapy sessions decades later, as I listened to adults connecting with their authentic voices. I have experienced that in my own inner process. Only as we honor our authenticity can we let our children and others be true to themselves.
Dr. Shefali Tsabary has written a profound best-selling book, The Conscious Parent, which explains in detail the importance of parental awareness. Many experts have given us valid guidelines to perform our parenting roles effectively, but I stand with Ms. Tsabary in the belief that self-awareness is the most important and powerful factor. I encourage parents to work towards healing their hurts and insecurities, allowing space for their children to make satisfying and creative choices more often.