The other day I had a fascinating conversation with a young mom that led to her sharing parts of her childhood. Without going into the details, the essence of her story was that much of her young life was spent living her mother’s dream. The result produced some complicated outcomes for her as an adult.
We’re all born with a certain temperament and personality type that is simply part of our DNA. Parenting has nothing to do with how we naturally respond to situations or if we’re outgoing or quiet. Some children will naturally lean towards the arts and others towards science. Some will be thinkers and others will be doers. We can’t change a naturally athletic child into an artist if that’s not what they’re meant to be.
Parenting does though have a profound impact on the view we have of ourselves. We tend to do better in life if we know we were loved unconditionally and accepted for who we were. We’re more likely to take risks if we grew up knowing that it was OK to make mistakes and if we got a clear message of “I believe in you.” If we were supported for the things we loved to do, we’re more likely to succeed in those things.
Some of us grew up having a dream that was never realized because our parents couldn’t afford whatever it took to support that dream or we were steered in another direction because someone thought they knew what was best for us. After many years coaching parents privately and learning about their own childhood, I’ve heard several stories of people who are still trying to please their parents or continue to carry around messages they heard growing up that continue to prevent them from doing what they really want to do. Some of those messages center around their incompetence or weaknesses so they don’t believe in themselves or trust they can do a good job. No parent of course ever raises a child with the intent of destroying their confidence or seeing them enter a career that doesn’t suit them. We all have what we think is our child’s best interest at heart. If the direction we’re steering our kids is really to suit us, we may not even be conscious of it.
Our kids are not given to us to mold into someone we want them to be. We’re meant to support and nurture them into the person they’re meant to be.