I have, with my wife, raised two boys, now aged 19 and 21 and a stepdaughter aged 28. They are inspired, energized, healthy and balanced individuals because of one very basic but critical concept. Getting this concept and applying it changes the actual viewpoint from which we parent and so transforms the very experience of being a parent..
Many of us feel that our children need to be protected and directed in order that they turn out as successful individuals. Others, believe that parents should befriend their children to maintain trust and a happy relationship, by giving them space to evolve, without being controlled or coerced into a future that we think is best for them. In my experience, both these approaches lead to disaster!
Either a child experiences domination and suffocation or the alternative, being neglect and ‘boundary-less’ choice paralysis.
So how do we care for our children, help them and protect them? How do we decide which approach and how much stick to carrot is the right balance?
Well here is the concept that creates an environment of healthy communication, clear, empowered roles and functional family connections.
The Concept is to move from expectation….to Aspiration.
That is it. Just shifting from one to the other, focuses the energy where it belongs; with the child. Moving to aspiration means that we want the best for our child. We want hem to be self-reliant, inspired, creative and healthy BUT inside ourselves, we accept that it may not turn out that way. Our children may face challenges, suffering and difficulty in their lives and on a deep level as parents, we need to accept that as a possibility and realise that they are here to live out their own story.
f When we are in expectation, we are attempting to engineer our children in order that they live out OUR story. This is not an easy shift but when we realise that we can, in aspiration, guide and support, care for and encourage, facilitate and organise, teach and connect. Then we see that our children open up to the experience of our role in their lives.
In aspiration we can build trust and influence, the two essential ingredients needed to protect and inform our children.
In expectation, there is an agenda presented to the child and this is felt within them as invalidation, as disrespect and as an experience of the parent in essence becoming the child. We expect them to be successful not just because we love them but also because we need to be validated as parents through their achievements. A child feels this as an energetic abandonment, even if we are supportive and apparently ‘focused’ on the child.
This is the birthplace of unhealthy rebellion, of seeking identity through separation that is beyond the natural desire to leave the nest. It is the root of self sabotage. Where failure becomes power, where identity is developed in a negative self-evaluation. This core issue is the environment in which the relationship between child and parent becomes conflictive,abusive or even violent. This is how we can potentially cripple our children for life.
So the concept of aspiration allows for all the important dynamics of parenting; guidance, wisdom, support, nurturing but also conviction, sincerity, boundaries and responsibilities. It creates clear roles, for authentic modelling and allows for appropriate, life long friendships to develop within a safe, creative and loving family space. This has been my experience and I am filled with gratitude for the strong and solid bond that I have with my children.