Two Ways to Be a Better Parent

levineThis weekend, I had the pleasure of listening to Madeline Levine, PhD. (author of The Price of Privilege, Teach Your Children Well) speak at my favorite annual camp conference.

Dr. Levine has insight as to why so many of our children are suffering from terrible mental health issues (anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sleeping issues, self-mutilation, etc.).  I learned two simple things that I am going to do to be a better parent.

Seeing Our Kids for Who They Really Are

Each of our kids is unique and has their own interests and ideas, but how often do we not honor that uniqueness? As parents, we sometimes impose our own ideas and expectations on them without seeing them for who they really are.  I know I’ve signed my kids up for a sport and later learned that they didn’t want to play it anymore.  And I’ve pressured my kids to practice a musical instrument they don’t like. I’ve also seen, as my kids have gotten older and been able to better articulate and select their own interests, how happy they are when they do “their” thing.

DSC00369Let’s not make our kids suffer through childhood and wait for adulthood to be who they really are and do what they love. This week, let’s stare at each of our wonderful, unique kids and ask them and ourselves: What makes them tick?  What makes them happy? What activities are they doing now that they really like and help them thrive? And which activities are they doing that don’t honor who they really are?

Our kids are not mini versions of us, so our expectations and communication with them need to change so that they can thrive being themselves.photo (1)

Share What We Stink At

Kids often see adults as being put together and good at everything.  They need to know what we stink at and that nobody’s good at everything.

Although we’ve talked about strengths and weaknesses before, this week I’m going to start the conversation with my kids about the concept that each of us has areas where we shine, areas where we are average, and areas where we stink.  We live in a culture that tells our kids that they are supposed to get a 4.0 (or more) and excel in ALL subjects and take an untenable amount of accelerated courses. Kids get the message from our culture (and sadly, us) that they are supposed to be excellent at everything — sports, school, music, art, public speaking, etc.  Parents hate thinking (gasp!) that our children are average in any area, but we ourselves are average in a lot of areas and so are our kids.

Let’s celebrate our and our children’s areas of mediocrity with humor!  There are kids who shine academically and can do well in a variety of subjects, but most of us shine only in certain subjects. There are kids who shine at sports and others who shine at robotics or computer programming.  There are so many unique areas where kids can shine, and our cookie cutter culture doesn’t support those who shine in non-academic and non-athletic areas.  As parents, we can support them by honoring where they shine and letting them know that no one shines at everything.  I’m going to talk with my kids about all the areas where I stink, so that they know that it’s okay that they stink at stuff, too.

IMG_4248Our kids need to know that we love them for who they really are.

Resources/Links:

Madeline Levine
Teach Your Children Well
4 Parenting Challenges and How Camp Can Help

Sunshine

I'm blessed to have five great kids (ages 13-23) call me “Mom.” As a summer camp director for the past 30 years, I've also had the privilege of working with thousands of kids, college-age counselors, and parents. I follow the latest research and trends on parenting, education, and children’s development and love to share what I learn!

3 Comments
  1. Just think how exciting it will be for your kids when you take off some of that pressure to be GOOD at everything. I hear the sighs of relief coming through already. I was always a good student, graduated Magne cum laude from college, but there was a time when I had to look at myself and realize I was never going to be a dental hygienist, like I thought I wanted to be. I took chemistry and got a “C” and that C was the highest grade I could get. I just didn’t get it at all and didn’t see the relevence in learning and memorizing all of that stuff. I changed my major after that class when my golf coach told me that I would be a great teacher when I would always be helping the other people in the class. Just another point of the fact that we all “suck” at some things, but it isn’t a big deal. We are also great at other things! I would love to hear how your kids respond to your discussions. Love ya Audrey.

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