Many of my clients come to me complaining that their children simply do not do what they’re told, are unmanageable, and are following the ‘wrong’ path in life. What this tells me is a lot about the parent, and very little indeed about the child. We all give away through the way that we speak and the things that we focus on, what is important to us. But how often do we stop to find out what is important to someone else, particularly with our children.
As much as we have hopes and desires for our kids, they have these for themselves too. What we tend to do is praise and emphasise those things that they love that fit in with our own priorities for them and ignore or ridicule those that are outside of our own value system. In doing so we impose our own set of values and dreams onto our children and then wonder why they eventually rebel and become totally incompliant.
Most parents, if they took the time and care to notice, would find it easy to tell you what is important to their kids, and yet they place very little importance on this themselves. When we stop to respect our children as real, complete human beings as they are, we enter a whole new world of relationship with them. Think about it – you wouldn’t tell your friends what job they should do or who they should be friends with or what they should be eating for dinner, right?
Understanding your children’s dreams, goals and priorities instead of ignoring them can actually make your parenting journey much easier. Whatever it is that you want them to do, you simply find a way to link it to what is already important to them. For example if you want your child to bath and their highest priority is to play, then instead of saying “get in the bath now”, say “it’s time to go and play in the bath – which toys would you like to bring?” Or, for example, if you want your child to eat vegetables and their highest priority is dinosaurs, then call the broccoli “dinosaur trees” or talk about which dinosaurs would have eaten each part of the meal that is currently on their plate. If you want your soccer star to focus more on maths, point out how by learning maths he will have an advantage over the other players by understanding how to score goals by focusing on the angle between himself, the ball and the net.
It may take a bit of time and practice, but I guarantee that linking what your child loves to everything they need to do makes parenting easier in the long run. Children feel heard and understood and they see that you are respecting what is important to them. They see the connections between what you want them to do and what they want for themselves instead of seeing your view as an imposition.
I believe that every human being, regardless of their age, should have their values and dreams respected. The sooner that parents and teachers stop imposing their views onto the children in their care and instead link their values to those of the kids, the sooner we’ll find happy children, living their dreams and complying with their caregivers.
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