I believe that if you are a parent, it is your most important job! Your love, attitudes and actions will shape your children’s inner and outer lives. Your ability to guide them wisely while allowing them to be true to their authentic selves is both their reward and your own.
In 1927 Kahlil Gibran wrote “The Prophet” which includes the poem, “On Children” from which I quote a few lines in Soul Selfish. I suggest that you read it in its entirety.
“Your children are not your children,
They come through you, but not from you
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.”
“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth……”
As a parent you are a role model, teaching your children how to be.
- Your choices signal what is important.
- Your attention to them gives them value.
- Your emotional support strengthens them.
They have their own personalities. They will go through their own stages of development, have their own outer experiences and inner thoughts and feelings, challenges and victories. They have their own talents and interests — each unique to themselves.
They will have societal pressures placed on them, different from what you went through during those stages. Norms change. How do they “stack up” physically, intellectually, socially, athletically? How accepted are they? How do they perform in school? To what groups are they connected? All their own experiences.
How can you support them in being, doing and having what they want? Listen to them and encourage them to go for their desires so long as it is not hurtful to themselves or others. Your support validates their ideas, self-trust and confidence. There are a few “non-negotiables” that parents need to impose, relating to safety, health, schooling and respect for others.
I believe the greatest gift a parent can give a child is trustworthy, loving connection. A client of mine once confided in me: “I didn’t feel lonely when I was alone. I felt lonely with my Dad.” As parents, our involvement requires us to become ever growing and loving, mindful of our own ambition — our ego driven needs for our children’s success.
Parenting is a role that requires awareness, openheartedness and intelligence.
- How much do you listen to your children—their dreams and desires?
- How much do you support those dreams?
- How much do you impose your dreams on them?
These are ongoing, sometimes uncomfortable and difficult questions, all stemming from my belief that the most effective parents are those who are most self-aware.
Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with your children. Grow to love yourself as you love them. You will all continue to grow, together.