We are all familiar with the aggressive Football Dad’s, Mom’s/ Parents. You know the ones that insist their child play football (or any sport) despite the his/her mental wellbeing. The academic version of this is the “advanced” child parent’s, You know who I am referring to. The ones who find every possible reason to share their kids report card with you. They claim their kid was reading at six months of age and is smarter than yours in every possible way. These are the more extreme cases but I recently discovered that all parent’s, including myself do this to a degree and in various ways. Why do we do this to our children? What is the underlying issue and how do we recognize and remedy this issue.
The last thing I want to do is tell any parent that they are doing something wrong. This is about understanding our Humanness so we may work on our issues. Not about instilling guilt or shame. There is far too much of that in our society. Every parent has felt this on some level. I suspect single parents tend to feel this external pressure and guilt more acutely. I know because I am one. By single Parent I mean just that. Full-time 24/7 with no support, not every other weekend. I love it am grateful to have him so much. Unfortunately many good Dad’s get a raw deal in family court as the presumption is Mom is always better suited for child rearing and Dad is better suited for writing checks. I felt guilty or inadequate often. If you weren’t doing everything deemed imperative by some “expert” then you were a shit parent. I suspect this is the main reason so many Parents insist their child/ children have the best grades, most trophies, etc. By ensuring others know how great their child is it alleviates their subconscious fear. When working in the Pediatric Emergency Room I would encounter many abused children. Children exposed to drugs or violence and worse. The Parent’s of these children were despised by the Nurses, Physicians and all involved. I was no different and I now see the error of my ways. Not that I condone child abuse but realize the error in denying the Human aspect of the perpetrators. In doing so we learn nothing and get no closer to preventing future cases. Such is true by telling ourselves that everything we decide for our children is because we want what is best for them and nothing to do with us. We just want them to be happy. Honest introspection is the beginning of all growth.
First we must give ourselves permission to stop feeling guilt/ shame. Give yourself permission to care for your own health and wellbeing. Modelling healthy behavior is greater than any sport you can force them into. I used to feel terrible if I overslept or couldn’t afford to, either time or money to put him in sports. Undergoing this spiritual transformation is very taxing on the mind and body at times. Often people require days of excessive sleep and I am/ was no different. I would struggle with feelings of shame. I eventually realized what I had always known. He will be just fine in the long run and I can not give what I do not have. I must care for myself to properly care for him. This is true for all caregiver roles. In fact there is a Nursing Diagnosis known as caregiver role strain, characterized as burn out related to the caregiver giving selflessly and neglecting themselves. The reality is this. Your child’s athletic ability and or IQ will likely make no real difference in their future quality of life. The studies on children in “advanced” classes conclude that they end up struggling for a quality life as we all do. Projecting your fears on to them will cause them psychological harm. They want nothing more than to make us proud. They try so hard to please us for they worry we may withhold our love if we disappoint them. They feel shame if we express disappointment. We think they do not pick up on our emotions but believe me they are more sensitive than you are. We rarely model the behavior we ask of them. How many of those football Dads are running sprints with their boys? I am not saying there is anything wrong with sports or good grades. However lets encourage them and allow them to express themselves authentically. If your boy wants to do gymnastics (my Son does) over football then support him. They will excel at a sport of their choosing and therefore excel at it. Possibly making it a career and source of happiness, accomplishment and meaning. If your kid is struggling with math and doesn’t get a 4.0 gpa in first grade then help them. Make it as fun as possible and take any pressure or stress out of the equation (no pun). Majority of children will turn around in that environment. If you convince them they “cant do or struggling with math” then they will likely experience shame, question their abilities not focus and believe this their entire lives. I once thought I sucked at Math. My entire life actually. It was only recently, after I stopped accepting limits I placed or others placed on me in the past that I discovered I’m quite good at it. We must stop enforcing the distorted values society imposed on us onto our children. Nurture their natural talents and interests. Unfortunately most of us do not do this for ourselves. The first thing I do with my Clients is help them discover or rediscover their talents, interest and passions and then require they indulge them daily or weekly minimum and they love me for it.
I was fortunate enough to have a great Family. My parents are still married and happy. I recently became very cautious about subconsciously projecting my own inadequacies on my Son. When I decided to go rogue and start living freely and authentically. I started expressing myself without apology or the need of others to approve. Naturally this disrupts the status quo and those/ most fear this. It threatens their illusion of security. The irony is most of us defend the very systems that oppress us. The main objective of all those following an awakening is to illuminate this truth for others. Prior to this I always sought the approval of my Father. I respect and love him still. He was not pleased when I started living as my True-self. He wanted what is best for me. How is your child living the life they want. One that brings them happiness, joy, and elation regularly not what is best for them? I realized I was expressing disapproval of my Son without being fully aware I was doing it. I make an effort daily to allow him to express himself authentically without fear. I am excited to see the amazing Man he will become. Who would your child become without limitation?
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Dan McGinley RN BSN