What is your vision for your daughter?
Many parents start by saying that they just want their children to be happy.
Healthy and happy.
We might go on to say that we want our child to be joyful, to love life, to have fun, to know what she wants and have the confidence to pursue that, to feel fulfilled, to have deep friendships, be open-hearted, kind, and generous, to love and feel loved, to love herself, and to be happy.
But she might be happy just eating chips and chocolate and skipping school.
What then? Do we want our child to be happy – but only in a way that we are comfortable with?
Do we think we know better about where true happiness lies? Perhaps we do.
I hear children struggling under the pressure to realize the goals that are set for them. Not a great deal of happiness seems to come in achieving them either. I could say the same of many adults. Too often we are trained to lose touch with who we are, and what we want, as we strive to meet what is expected of us.
Here’s what many teens think their parents want from them:
Do well in school
Then get a good job
Succeed in chosen hobbies
Go to bed on time
Have friends who are a good influence
Do as told – help out, clear up, be nice
Don’t be confrontational
Be amenable and in a good mood
Stay clear of drugs
Wait for sex
Oh, and be happy
This is a very different list from the one that parents give for their true aspirations for their child.
It is much harder to confer confidence and self-love, than it is to focus on exam results and messy bedrooms. Tune into the air space between you and your daughter. Are you helping her to figure out what she loves? We all slip into “Have you done… ?” and “Shouldn’t you…” but if we really mean what we say when we list our aspirations for our children, we will also be nurturing the acorns of their dreams.
It is a delicate balance between guiding our children towards healthy behaviour and positive aspirations, and allowing their own natural inclinations and passions to emerge to guide them.
Childhood is not the time to fill our children’s heads with information. Notice how they will naturally inform themselves of whatever they need to know in their own area of interest. In this Wikipedia-age that part is easy. What is more elusive, and more precious to find, is what makes their hearts sing. Then we serve them best by enabling them to be resourceful – to sift through facts, feel confident about their ability to learn new things and develop their own opinions, and listen to what they feel to be right.
Get behind your child’s passions, or get out of the way so they can.
Even if their fascinations seem fickle, you prioritizing them gives your child the sense of how important it is to follow her own heartbeat. Trust that within her are the impulses to seek out what gives her pleasure and to discover where her talents lie.
The clearest way of communicating this to your child is by how you live your own life. Are you doing what you are good at? Are you giving time to doing what you love?
Although I believe that the best development is from the inside out, rather than outside in, it can be hard to trust that a child will turn out okay without our moderation. And yet, we want them to go out into the world with a strong sense of self, motivation, and ability to take responsibility. So at what age do we start trusting them to do this?
This is so much easier if we understand and approve of our children’s dreams, but whatever they are, if we truly want a happy child we will support them in whatever it is that they love.
She may want to draw and dance rather then solve simultaneous equations
She may want to sponsor a panda rather than learn how to play tennis
She may want to play her guitar and make up songs all day
She may want to plant flowers to save the bees rather than study stigma and stamens
She may want to fiddle about on her laptop connecting with people
She may want free range in your kitchen to make chocolate cake and chicken curry
She may like to earn money and spend all day Saturday in town spending that money
A child who has been allowed to develop her true self
is more likely to be a happy self – right through into adulthood.
What gives your child joy and energy?