Here in the United States, we’re a week away from one of our oldest holiday traditions: Thanksgiving. Whether or not you celebrate Thanksgiving where you’re located, it’s a good opportunity to show some gratitude for all that we have: our homes, our families, our health.
As a parent, I know you’re incredibly thankful for the gift that is your child. But sometimes we can be grateful for our kids and yet, in the same breath, wish they were different.
If only my kid were as well-behaved as my neighbor’s.
I wish my son got into an Ivy League school.
Why can’t my daughter be more friendly?
Parents find it hard to accept their kids for who they are. When a child exercises their autonomy, the parent often responds by telling them they’re rude, bad, spoiled, or unappreciative. We don’t stop to wonder:
What makes my kid more outspoken than the neighbor’s child?
What else interests my son besides schoolwork?
What social situations make my daughter feel most comfortable?
Why do we freak out in the moment when our kids say “no” instead of wondering what they’re saying “yes” to?
Your child may be your progeny, but they aren’t your clone. At most, they only share half your DNA, and they have a unique combination of experiences and emotions that are separate and apart from yours. All too often, parents treat their children as though they should be dolls: obedient, orderly, and passive. Those attitudes are often subconscious and stem from what we learned during our own childhoods.
But the cycle is not inevitable. When you engage with your child and get curious about what they’re saying “yes” to, you open the lines of communication and start to connect with them at heart-level, as human beings. And when we truly connect, that’s when we realize that our kids aren’t being self-centered or defiant—they’re just being themselves.
Our kids aren’t being self-centered or defiant—they’re just being themselves.
[A little sidebar: We just recently found out that our beloved family dog is deaf. He’s probably been deaf all his life, but all this time we thought he was just “practicing his autonomy” to not respond when we called him! 😉 He was just being himself.]
The truth is, our kids don’t exist to obey us, comply to our rules, or make us happy. Each child is their own unique individual, with their own personality, opinions, and set of likes and dislikes.
So this Thanksgiving, eat a slice of humble pie, and accept that it’s not “your way or the high way” when it comes to parenting. As healthy, conscious parents (or caregivers!), it’s our duty to nurture our kids’ autonomy and uniqueness. That’s how we help them grow to be self-sufficient adults.
We need to recognize this responsibility, take it to heart, and be grateful that our children are just the way they are. Teaching kids to be considerate of their own needs and the needs of others trumps training kids to be obedient and compliant every time.
Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for you, and happy that we’re on this journey together.