I have, with my wife, raised two boys, now aged 25 and 27, and a stepdaughter aged 32. They are inspired, energized, healthy and balanced individuals because of one very basic but critical concept. Getting this new understanding and applying it can change the actual viewpoint from which we parent and so transform the very experience of raising a child.
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 a concept that can create an environment of healthy communication, clear, empowered roles and functional family connections.
The Concept is simply to move from having expectations of our children….towards having aspirations for them. That is it.
Just shifting our perspective from one to the other, switches the focus to where it belongs; with the child. Moving to aspiration means that we want the best for them. We want them 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 realize that they are here to live out their own story.
When we think. speak and direct from a place of expectation, we are attempting to engineer our children in order that they live out our story. 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 a separation that is beyond the natural desire to leave the nest. It is the root of self-sabotage. Where failure becomes the 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.
It’s not an easy shift but when we realize that we can, in aspiration, guide, and support, care for and encourage, facilitate and organize, 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.
So the concept of aspiration allows for all the important dynamics of parenting; guidance, wisdom, support, nurturing but also sincerity, boundaries, and responsibilities. It creates clear roles, for authentic modeling and allows for appropriate, lifelong 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.