We all have “issues” of one kind or another. Many of them stem from fears, past experiences, misunderstanding, or lack of accurate information. Many people point to their upbringing as the source of their problems today.
The truth is, no parents are perfect, and there comes a time when we have to let go of blaming all of our problems on our childhood and choose to develop the confidence to make the best of our own lives. In some cases, this may involve forgiveness of everything from not getting the toy you always wanted, to being forced to take tuba lessons to traumatic abuse. It’s an important part of growing up to finally realize that your parents may have done the best they could with what they had and knew and to begin taking adult responsibility for your adult life.
That said, maybe you can learn a few things from your past experiences that will help you avoid some of the mistakes that can potentially have a long-term negative effect on your children.
Here are few general principles that might help your kids grow up to be mature, confident adults and possibly avoid some of the challenges you struggle with:
Teach your children that they are an important part of something bigger than themselves. Damage can occur if children are raised to believe they are worthless or if they believe the world revolves around them. I have worked with people at both extremes and their struggles are intense. Children need to know that they are intrinsically valuable, and that an added sense of purpose can be found in how they fit into their family, their classroom, society and the world.
Show your children how to apologize and make amends. In my years of counseling, I have counseled numerous family members and spouses who came in to resolve a conflict, only to realize that the conflict would not have escalated if one or both of the people had simply owned up to their responsibility, offered a sincere apology and taken steps to repair the offense. Children who see their parents stubbornly refuse to apologize will have more trouble getting along with others and suffer from chronic tension in their homes. Children who observe swift apologies grow to be adults who know how to cool a conflict and not lose confidence in themselves just because they made a mistake.
Demonstrate grace and understanding when other people don’t do what you want. As we go through life, many different influences shape our view of how things “should” be or how others “should” behave. The problem, of course, is that all the other people who share the planet with you have had many different influences, which may give them widely differing world views, opinions and behaviors. Teach your children universal principles of right and wrong so they can confidently navigate their own decisions, but also teach them to be understanding of others.
Give them opportunity to work and contribute. As a society, we are seeing more young adults who have no concept of their own capability and don’t know how to work. Perhaps their parents tried too hard to win their love, or they worked long hours due to financial need and couldn’t be home to oversee chores. Do your best to make it a priority to teach your children the skills that will help them be ready to be on their own. They need to respect every kind of work and not grow up to believe they don’t have to do anything that’s “beneath” them. They need to start and finish projects. They need to know that they are valuable members of the household who contribute to the smooth running of your home, and they need to learn that they can make a difference.
Equip them to manage and save money, defer gratification and develop generosity. Kids who grow up learning how to earn also need to make good use of their paychecks. Have your kids divide all their money between needs, wants, savings and charitable giving. Start simply, with jars, piggy banks or envelopes – all great options. If kids are allowed to blow every penny on themselves, they are almost certainly going to develop poor spending habits and selfishness, and will likely encounter financial problems as adults. Teach them to pass up something mediocre so they can save up for something great, and show them the value of generosity toward others.
Encourage them to develop their individual talents. A lot of people suffer from deep feelings of inadequacy because they somehow don’t measure up to a parent’s expectations. As a parent, one of your responsibilities and privileges is to study your children and find out who they are as individuals and help them excel in their own talents. Allow them space and opportunity to discover what their gifts and abilities are, and don’t try to force them into a mold that doesn’t fit. You may have to give up the dream of having a doctor or pro football player if your child was made for something else. Celebrate your kids for who they are, and they will develop confidence to do their best wherever they go in life.
Maybe you can think of some other important principles for raising mature, confident adults. Do you have any advice for parents who don’t want to mess up their kids? We would like to hear from you! Leave a comment with your ideas or observations.
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