Years ago, I went to a parenting conference. During one of the sessions, I remember a speaker sharing a personal story that ended with a major lesson she learned. She admitted that she was so focused on who her daughter wasn’t that she was missing out on embracing who her daughter was.
That remark has stayed with me for years.
It made me realize that despite our best intentions as parents, we often miss the mark. Because we want our children to have happy lives and experience minimal suffering, we can remain focused on who we want them to be instead of shining a bright, loving light on who they are.
And it’s not that we don’t love our kids for who they are. We do. But we also see the world through our own lenses. We think our childhood heartaches and struggles will becomes theirs, or we worry that if they don’t exhibit a trait that has served us well in life, they may very well suffer for it.
But this is far from true. Your child sees the world through his or her own lenses. Your son’s experiences are not yours. Your daughter’s perspectives need not be your own. And the amazing thing is that, despite these realities, your kids will be fine. They will find their way in a world that often seems complicated and unjust. They will find their piece of happiness despite the challenges they face.
Our job as parents is to nurture confidence within our children. Understanding how to stand in their own truth and walk through the world with heads held high is the single most important gift we can give them.
This doesn’t mean they won’t get made fun of or have moments when they feel lost or defeated. They will. It’s part of the human experience. But it does mean that during those difficult times, they won’t accept defeat. They won’t allow someone else to define who they are or what their experiences should be.
When you focus on who your children are, you are able to bring out the best in them. Maybe your child isn’t as outgoing or outspoken as you are. Maybe your child doesn’t share your love for math or writing or the arts. Maybe your child gets pleasure from doing things that bored the mess out of you when you were a kid.
But guess what? That is okay. It’s actually more than okay.
You did not have children to create a clone of yourself. Your children won’t always share your personality traits or passions. They often won’t have the same interests as you do.
Yet, despite all of you those differences, your children are uniquely amazing, and you have to support that belief. You have to stop worrying about how the world will receive your child and worry more about how you receive him or her. You have to start thinking about how accepting you are and why that acceptance plays such an important role in your child’s life.
Children who spend their lives being compared to siblings suffer. Children who feel like their parents can’t just see and accept them for who they are suffer. Your children need to be okay with who they are. They need you to share the building blocks of confidence, so they can thrive. They get these things from knowing that you see them and hear them and love them for who they are… not who you want them to be.
So as I raise my kids, I am doing my best to acknowledge their differences and focus on their strengths. I want them to be confident individuals who don’t feel pressure to fit into some mold created by society or their own parents. I want them to be strong in their convictions while feeling good about the people they are becoming.
And when I have a moment of worry or concern because one of my kids doesn’t display a quality that has brought me success in life, I need to remind myself that we are not the same person. I need to remember that we all have our own strengths and weakness, and that the one thing we all need to make it in the world is a sense of self-worth, self-love and confidence. If I raise them to have these things, they will be more than all right.
BMWK family, what do you think is the single most important thing parents can do to raise confident kids?