5 Things Parents Need to Let Go of To Form a Tighter Bond with Their Child
Being a parent is the most wonderful experience in the world, but for some of us parents, it can also stir up some old feelings of insecurity. It’s hard not to bring our own hang-ups into our relationship with our kids. After all, everyone is a sum of their experiences.
But if you want to draw your child closer and not push him or her away as the junior high and teenage years approach, there are five things you need to let go of as soon as you can.
1) Who You’d Like Your Kid to Be
Sometimes things don’t work out the way you’ve envisioned. Maybe you were the star athlete in high school and your child would rather participate in the theater than pick up a ball of any kind.
That can sting — giving up your idealized picture of how your child will be. But the thing you need to realize is that your kids are not you. They are their own people. And they have talents that will amaze you every day if you look hard enough.
If you make an effort to see who your child truly is and wants to be instead of pushing your own agenda on them, you’ll have a much closer bond in the end.
2) What You’ve Done Wrong
You need to give yourself a pass on the bad decisions you’ve made – in the past and as a parent. No one is perfect. And if you’ve learned something from the mistakes you’ve made, maybe they aren’t as bad as you think they are.
Maybe you’ve had a short fuse as a parent and worry it’s too late to regain your child’s trust. Or maybe you did things in your teenage years that leave you feeling like a hypocrite when you talk to your children about making good choices.
When I look at my high school years, I see I didn’t really try hard enough at anything. I had decent grades and was in an extracurricular activity, but I never pushed myself to give anything my all or explore all the hobbies or interests I could have. I let my natural shyness cripple me at times.
Instead of beating myself up about it all these years later, I’ve used it as a springboard to encourage my kids to give everything a try in school. They haven’t liked everything they’ve joined, and that’s okay. They stick with their activities for a school year and decide if they want to keep it or ditch it. It’s entirely up to them.
Although they’ve opted to let some of their activities ride off into the sunset, they’ve been glad they gave it the old college try and they’ve learned something about the activity and themselves in the process.
3) Being Unreasonable About Grades
This one’s hard because you walk a fine line between pushing your child too much and letting them coast.
I still struggle with this one when my son, who is a straight A student, brings home anything less than what he’s capable of getting on an assignment. Even if his overall grade is still good, I worry that he’s falling behind.
Where that worry comes from, I have no idea. I’ve come to the conclusion that my son bombing one paper isn’t the problem. The bigger issue is why it bothers me so much.
I try to remind myself that when it comes time to apply for colleges, no one is going to be individually tracking my child’s daily papers from sixth grade. He’s not going to be doomed to a dead-end career and a life of poverty and regrets if he ends up with a B on his report card.
And so, I am slowly learning to relax on this one. He came close to losing his straight As during the last quarter of this school year and I told him not to worry about it. Better yet, I even meant it. He managed to rebound that grade and he kept his straight As, but he did that all on his own, without a nagging mom in the background.
It took the pressure off of both of us, and we shared a laugh over the possibility that a single B would derail his life.
Life has enough real pressure without adding to it.
4) What Your Child Has Done Wrong
Just as you wouldn’t want your past mistakes always coming back to haunt you, you shouldn’t feel the need to flaunt your child’s mistakes in his face either.
Maybe that one time he forgot his homework assignment or he pressed the snooze button and was late for school. Those are honest mistakes. If he hasn’t displayed a pattern, you shouldn’t constantly bring up those small errors. He’ll feel defensive when he speaks to you, or worse yet, he’ll be afraid to tell you when he makes his next mistake. He’ll worry you’re going to ride him excessively about it and never let it go.
The truth is, we all make mistakes. We learn from them and move on.
5) The Need to Always Be Right
At the risk of sounding like I’m patting every parent on the back, I’m just going to say it — we usually are right. We have more perspective and more life experiences, so we can see trouble when it’s brewing, whether it’s a bad friend, a looming breakup or a grade that’s going to be affected by procrastination.
Even though we don’t need a crystal ball to see what’s about to go down, we don’t need to rub it in either. You can try to warn your child, but he or she won’t always listen. In fact, remembering how often I discounted my parents’ advice when I was a teenager, I know that teenagers rarely listen. They need to learn some things for themselves.
And the last thing they need from you is a great, big I told you so. They know you told them. You don’t have to say it, and you shouldn’t say it, even if it means physically biting your lip.
At some point, every kid thinks they know more about life than their parents do. They’ll come around and realize you aren’t as out of touch as they think you are. Until that happens, remember that when you were younger that last thing you wanted was your mom to rub your face in it when she was right. It adds insult to injury. That’s the last thing we need to be doing as parents.