Realistically I’d tell you to take my opinion for a grain of salt. I’m a relatively young Dad at 30 and only having two kids, both of which are 5 and under means you could take this article as personal experience and perspective as opposed to expertise – if the latter even exists with parenting anyway.
I have no doubt many people would look at my style of parenting and totally disagree with it, thinking my views to be either too extreme or too care-free depending on the situation to effectively raise my children. Then I’m sure there are many people that think I’m a great Dad. In all honesty I don’t really know which one is entirely accurate – probably a combination of both.
Truth be told – I don’t really care.
What I do know is that each day I observe both my kids showing exorbitant amounts of affection towards each other and both my wife and I. Their ability to interact with other children is a pleasure to watch and their independence and self-reliance is admirable. If I was a scientist I’d say that was adequate qualitative data to suggest whatever we are doing as parents… we must be doing something right.
The other day my wife and I had a date without the kids. As we sat in a local Thai restaurant enjoying spicy chili duck and garlic basil seafood I came to the realization that parenting for us is consciously selfless.
…Hold on a sec, that kinda sounds egotistical. Let me explain what I mean, in context…
Remember that story I shared about the conversation I had with someone where we were asking each other what we’d like our kids to be when they grow up? The response that I got was “I want my kids to be happy“. That very statement was so profound it shapes the way I raise my kids to this day. I really don’t care what my kids decide to do in life as long as they at least do the following;
- Carry their own. Independence is integral to surviving in the world. A sense of entitlement never helped anyone. And it sure as hell is no level of insurance I’ve ever come to see come through when you need it.
- Don’t do something that hurts others. As long as people do things they can be proud to honestly say contributes to the world by adding value as opposed to taking it away, they should rest easy at night with their morals.
- Be happy. If you define what success and financial means is to you and you can meet that through whatever makes you happy – you’ve done well in my mind. Sustain that for life so that your happy – you’ve won the game.
So how does all this come into play when it comes to the dynamics of parenting as a whole?
For me, in my very young 5 years of parenting my gut tells me parenting comes down to two strategies.
Micro-parenting or macro-parenting?
It’s not all that different to leadership or management in the context of micro vs macro, with two additional layers – the scope is long term and is intent based.
For me, successful parenting always takes into consideration the intent of both the parent and the child. Risk, reward or lesson should all be aligned with the intent of both parent and child. A child that doesn’t clean their room because they are busy finishing a sentence in a book where their nature is based around perfectionism does not warrant a lesson (punishment, traditionally speaking). In this example, the child’s strength lies in the compulsion to master the task, the situation at hand they are consumed in and this strength ought to be bet on, developed and nurtured. This view is long term (macro) as it recognizes the fact that such a character trait within the child will go a long way in life rather than the short term gain of a tidy room in that moment.
The idea is translated again in the case of expecting your child to dress themselves at a young age as opposed to having them feel the need to have you dress them. Again, it comes down to intent. Some children have greater gross motor skill maturity than others during their toddler years and dressing themselves will naturally come a lot easier. For others it may be a far greater challenge. However, intentionally giving your child the responsibility of trying when they can’t otherwise usually do it on their own with the intent of facilitating independence will have greater benefits long term. It’s also selfless because it requires parents to shorten the length of the umbilical cord.
It’s nice to have our kids feel as though they need us, because we as parents need to feel needed, but at what and who’s cost?
Knowing on a macro level that the characteristics of independence, problem solving and overcoming challenges has a far reaching long term positive impact is a worthy end goal. Rather than allowing them to constantly say “[They] can’t do it” and you stepping in accepting they are only two years old, try responding with “You can do it” and helping them along the way, or even watching how they respond to the challenge if you put them in the deep end. Yes, even at that young of an age. When they finally hit the milestone of getting an outcome and you say “See! You can do it!”, they realize their limit of potential just grew a little more in the big world. It’s a balance of facilitation vs. expectation. It takes courage because you have to have faith in them which is difficult as parents when sometimes you don’t have enough faith in yourself.
This morning my son who is just 5 responded to me with the following statement after I asked him to put his jumper on ready for school;
“Why do you always make me so independent?”
The sheer fact that he can comprehend my motive with that level of EQ shows me whatever it is we are doing is facilitating his natural development. Although he may gauge my reasons for this motive I have faith that at some point in the future it will be to his benefit… that’s the macro and that process for him started at the age of around one to two years old.
The real take home message here is in general kids are resilient and as parents we have an obligation to intentionally raise them with the soul outcome of their happiness in mind. Children have the remarkable capacity to be independent and do things on their own if you let them try, noting you may need to park your own fears aside. Sure, they’ll fail. Sure, they’ll make some bad decisions growing up. But all this for the most part will be micro level challenges. If we parent intentionally and apply macro-level thinking, I’m sure there is a very good chance they will grow up both successful, according to their definition, and happy.
Know a hard working, intentional parent that would enjoy this article? Please share it with them. I’d really appreciate it.