Parenting/caregiving is one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs many of us will experience. We devote endless time and mental capacity raising our kids to be some version of responsible, kind, curious, and humble beings. Childrearing books and advice from those who walked the parenting path before us offer useful insight, but unfortunately there is no personalized handbook that contains the customized recipe for raising each little human we welcome into this world.
Feeding them a steady diet that includes our pearls of wisdom, values, and guidance, we try our best to do reasonably well in this job while simultaneously juggling the myriad demands of adult life. As many can attest, the role of parent comes with a plethora of feelings; a mixed bag of emotions that range from joy and enamor, to frustration and concern. Many proud moments as well as a fair share of worrisome sleepless nights are par for the course.
By the time the little ones make it through their late teenage years, we will witness their struggling that comes from straddling the two distinct realms of dependent child and autonomous adult. We will likely observe that they have mastered the skill of tuning out. They become tone deaf to our voices at a certain point such that our words morph from distinguishable and meaningful to some nonsensical sounds like the off screen adults in those Charlie Brown Peanuts television specials. Life lessons we shared throughout their upbringing may get tossed aside and add to our frustration. Many of their actions seem to dismiss the survival skills we so diligently taught them.
This period is tough for parents to navigate. On the one hand, we know that our children’s need to express their independence and exert defiance (as we 0bserved in their toddler phase) is a natural part of the maturation journey. Their actions will be reinforced or discarded depending on the outcome they obtain (natural consequences). On the other hand, our instinct to want to protect our kids from potential harm never goes away, no matter how grown-up they are.
And then - - WHAM
After settling into some degree of acceptance that our messages and lessons have not been absorbed, SURPRISE!! We receive a sign, a signal that all those words of wisdom that we thought went in one ear and out the other actually landed solidly right between their ears, parking in their brains. This indication can take on many different appearances. In my case, it was a text with a photo of the nutritious meal my proud son cooked for himself; my mantra “protein and vegetables” had sunk in. Milestone noted.
I've summarized the key to this part of parenting in 3 not-always easy steps:
1. Give Them Space
We parents must step aside in order to create room for our children to live independently; how can they flap their wings if we stand too close?
2. Trust Yourself
We have given them everything they need, hard as it is to believe, for them to take flight. The takeoff might not be so smooth at first, but they will fly.
3. Resist the Urge to Pick Them Up From the Less-Than-Perfect Attempts
We learn from trial and error. Fixing the mishaps in our kids’ attempts will rob them of the opportunity to figure it out on their own.
They’ve got this. And you’ve got this.For support in this area, coaching can help you explore and navigate the parenting path that feels best for you.