Another way to look at parenting is that your job is to get to know your child. Why? Human development is never-ending. Just as you’re assisting your child in the unfolding of his or her identity, he or she is assisting you in the same way.
For example, by taking note of my older daughter’s incredible artistic abilities, even from a very young age, I learned a lot about her, and myself. I learned that my daughter has qualities that I don’t possess. I learned that she’s delightful to get to know. And I learned that I can learn from her, too. This intersecting of the developing progressions of two individuals is referred to as a dialogue. (Thus, the name dialectical psychology – the system of psychology that provides the theoretical foundation for my book, Entrepreneurial Couples: Making It Work at Work and at Home.)
Even though children are dependent on their parents and quite impressionable, especially when they’re young, a child comes into this world with a lot of traits already “hardwired.” Any parent who has more than one child will tell you that each baby was different. Even when brothers and sisters have the same parents, grow up together in the same house with their siblings, under roughly the same conditions, they turn out differently. The reason is that each individual is a product of both heredity and environmental influences.
But the development of a child is still more complex than heredity plus environment. Each child uses his or her innate resources (heredity) to perceive and then interpret the experiences (environment) he or she is exposed to. One person may interpret that tingly feeling in the spine as fear, while another person perceives the same feeling as thrilling. As your child interprets or makes sense of the environment over time, he or she acquires a number of beliefs about the world. These beliefs develop into a larger structure within which your child builds a life.
As parents you’re in a wonderful position to be part of this unfolding of your child. However, it’s important that you understand that your job is not to mold and shape your child as if he or she were a little lump of clay. Your child is a dynamic being who is discovering himself or herself while growing up. Your job is to assist in that discovery, to guide and protect, and to provide opportunities for even more discovery; but your job is definitely not to dictate your child’s life.
If you as the parent are a strong leader, and if you realize that your job is to get to know your child while at the same time getting to know yourself, your child will develop normally and with positive self-esteem. With positive self-esteem, your child will be prepared to handle most anything that comes his or her way. Knowing and liking who he or she is makes it easier for the child to ask questions, take risks, and correct mistakes. If you show your child that he or she is a valuable person by demonstrating your interest, your child will feel comfortable about going out into the world to discover how to best use his or her talents.
There is no need to wait until there is distance, or even animosity, between you and your children to get assistance. If you need help getting to know your children, and appreciating who they are and what they contribute, please contact my office and schedule and appointment if you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area.
If you live outside the office area, please schedule an appointment through a secure video Q & A session. This feature can be found under Entrepreneurial Couples Remote Education.