The favorite line of most estranged parents utter is ‘even though I did the best for my kids, yet they hate me‘. Or ‘how can they be so ungrateful for all that I have done?’ That is the conditional parent talking. What my narcissistic dominating father would vent to everyone after I finally left home. Everything they do for their child is based on what they think will showcase their superiority.
There was no respect for my needs and feelings neither was there any room for any negotiation or compromise. No doubt he was an extreme case, but in general, a majority of parents brush away their child’s preferences and wishes.
They delude themselves with the rigid belief that whatever they are doing is for the best – and slowly the resentment builds up. Life becomes a battleground and there are no winners. Just hurt and rage, your kids just won’t listen and can’t stand the sight of you.
Your Child’s Feelings and Needs Matter
Though deep down most parents want the best for their child. they think best means what the parents deem so. It could be what they have experienced or not experienced, what the social or religious mores are currently the standard, what the Jones next door is doing, or whatever the hell parents hold sacrosanct.
However, what they miss out, in their quest to raise the greatest, smartest, most accomplished kid on the planet is ‘what are my child’s needs and feelings?’
In order, to find their best selves children need love, support, respect, and validation. It means holding space and being mindfully present to their uniqueness. Forcing them into submission and making them comply only subverts their true desires temporarily. Slowly the repression builds up deceit and deviousness. Fear, anger, hate, resentment tarnish the parent-child relationship.
If a child cannot be open and free to express himself and be himself with his parent/s it is not a relationship it is a prison from which a child will eventually try to break free.
The Unconditional Parent – The Gardener
In her book, The Gardener and The Carpenter, developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik suggests that:
Parents should act like gardeners rather than carpenters: carpenters have their eye on the finished product (a table, say, or a chair), while gardeners plant seeds and care for them with only a vague, and ever-receding, end in mind.
How does one overcome our need to control?
1) Attunement and Respect
Attunement is the act of mindfully focussing on another person – his needs, feelings. Parental attunement conveys to a child that you truly value and respect them, it builds their self-esteem. It is in this environment that an honest parent-child bond develops, where open communication is possible.
Pay particular attention when they are upset and being difficult. How you tackle their tantrums is the blueprint for how they later handle difficult and stressful times as an adult.
2) Letting go of Preconceived Notions/Expectations
Remember, your child is not an extension of yourself. They are unique beings, with their own likes and dislikes. Some kids like to play with cars while others may prefer reading. Don’t push them into something they really dislike doing.
You can encourage them by modeling the activity. But it is better in the long-run for them to find their passion rather than you forcing them into something. Just because you, their sibling, cousin, or neighbor’s child has excelled at something does not mean this child will excel or even want to pursue it. There is nothing worse than having a pushy, nagging parent.
3) Room for Negotiations – Giving Choices
The hallmark of a good relationship is a discussion, negotiations, and compromise. even with a child. When a child grows up feeling they are heard, they return the favor- they listen to you.
Don’t order them to do something, just because you say so, give honest reasons to their, Whys? Talk with them, share why you don’t think it’s a not good idea. Give them the pros and cons of their choices.
4) Not Hovering/Interfering
Children are adults in-the-making and parents need to understand that every stage in the life cycle needs different degrees of parental engagement and support. Don’t insist on dressing up your 8-9-year-old, they can do it themselves, Intervene only when they ask for help.
Don’t hover around trying to fix their problems or avoid them getting hurt. How else will they learn? You may think you are helping them, not true, you are raising adults who are incapable of dealing with life. Remember you are not going to be around forever.
Parenting a child up the slippery slope to adulthood is tricky you have to know when to step in and stay out.
5) Not Projecting and Guilt-tripping
One of the most important functions of a parent is to take care of a child’s needs. Your child is not there to take care of yours. It is common for parents to project their own unresolved issues onto their children without even knowing it because projections are largely unconscious intergenerational relating patterns.
Furthermore, if you add guilt-tripping to this mix, a child can end up never really knowing who he is. T,heir identity is submerged by the projected belief system of their caregivers.
Noted psychologist, Alice Miller, succinctly describes this parental flaw in her book, The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self.
Projection is especially harmful because it can cause children to adopt beliefs and behaviors in an attempt to ‘live up’ or ‘live down’ to a projected identity.
The Most Common Mistake Parents Make?
Doing Your Best Means Love and Acceptance
Being a parent is hard work, particularly when we have not shed our own childhood shit. Be aware of your conditional parenting tactics as a way of making kids compliant and subservient. What’s the use of having adults who are obedient out of pressure and out of fear but lacking a stable sense of self. All dictator regimes flourish due to these kind followers, who cannot think and will blindly follow.
The future well-being of this planet is raising kids to be moral, independent humans, capable of living fruitful lives. This can happen when we love and accept them unconditionally. This means they can have opinions, make choices bearing the consequences, without you dictating their every move.
Of course, if something is dangerous, destructive, immoral, illegal, you as parents have a final say,
Remember, real parenting happens from birth to around 10-11. Be mindful of your behavior and actions, If you avoid that ‘oppressive cloud of hovering expectations’ as Gopnik puts it, your kids will actually want you in their lives. They will want to share their successes and failures, and maybe even ask your advice. What better relationship can there be with your child than one of mutual love and respect.