I am the proud mom of four boys.
Like almost every parent on this planet, there are days that my heart feels like it may burst because I can hardly contain the love I feel for them.
At other times, thankfully few and far between , I feel like I've failed them miserably.
While society considers me to be their role model and educator, after almost 21 years of being a mom to them, I have come to realise that they are actually my greatest teachers.
And these are the 4 most important lessons they have taught me:
1. When in doubt, err on the side of indulgence
I have noticed that all over the world the prevailing idea is that a more lenient parenting style is often confused with neglect or not clear boundaries setting, while strict, authoritarian parental styles are thought of as 'tough love' and being a 'responsible parent' . But strictness of its own accord does not guarantee caring and protection any more than lenience of its on accord guarantees love and warmth.
Yes, I am an indulgent parent and proud of it.
Meaning, more often than not, I take the most relaxing road in child rearing.
God knows I wasn't always like that. With my first born, I wanted everything to be done perfectly, in a timely fashion and by the book. And if it wasn't, I had to 'discipline ' my kid. Which resulted in an awful lot of unnecessary tension and unhappiness for both of us and, believe me, little or no results when it came to stopping undesirable attitudes or actions. Eventually I saw the light and realised that my kids' mental, emotional -and physical - health is far more important than perfection or 'teaching them the right lesson'.
''But won't the kids turn out to be spoiled brats?'', you ask.
Honestly, I don't understand this question. It is as if my kids, and any other kid on this planet, are inherently evil little creatures that need to be taught the correct way or else their evil nature will take over. This is obviously a remnant of puritanical thought of eras gone by and I'd rather not debate the obvious.
Being a spoiled brat is usually the result of a parenting style that fluctuates between overindulgence and too much strictness, where the kid does not know what to expect at any given moment and as a consequence has never developed the inner self discipline to correct or check themselves when they are about to engage in assholish behavior. When there is always a parent or authority figure teaching you to do that or else, you 'll turn up to be an adult that only does things because someone makes them to.
Life has its way of using corrective measures to make sure that you 'll pay for the consequences of your actions, good or bad, no matter your age ( this obviously does not apply to life threatening situations). Studies have shown that when it comes to preventing unsocial or harmful teenage behavior, by far the most important deterrent is neither strictness nor neglect, but rather active warmth, meaning caring and showing up daily, in the good times and the inevitable bad times. Showing you care, and never giving up is the key for me.
2. My parenting style is ok and so is yours
Barring abuse and neglect, this goes for every single parenting style on this planet. There is no perfect parent. No one size fits all. And no parenting style is better than another's. We may differ, but so do our kids. Life abhors uniformity. In everything. Your kid is unique in all creation and so is mine. So love and raise her or him accordingly.
You are doing fine.
You are doing your best.
Don't listen -or read- to uncalled for advice. You are a great parent. Really.
Just keep at it.
3. When it comes to teaching values to my kids, this is the one most important thing I go by
Sure, I want my kids to be loving, loved, healthy, happy, prosperous, well educated, compassionate, resilient, open-minded, respected etc. Yes, I want for them all the wonderful things life has to offer on this planet.
But more than anything else.
I. WANT. THEM. TO. BE FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
Freedom is my highest value. Top notch. Yes, even higher than love. So it is only natural that I want this for my kids more than anything else in this world.
Freedom to me means leading the most authentic and satisfying -mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually - life possible. If something feels restrictive, it is probably oppressive and soul crushing and, if tolerated for too long, contributing to ill health and misery, ultimately depression and physical melt down. Our bodies and hearts know. It is our minds that trick us into repressing our souls in all ways imaginable.
It is ok to do your duty and avoid instant gratification, but look at all those people feeling chronically depressed, sad for no reason, or that they are somehow trapped. All clear signs they 've been lacking in freedom, first of the soul, then of anything else.
I don't want this sort of life for my kids. This may be the case all over the world, but it doesn't have to be so. And it all starts out when you're too young to know any better.
If freedom is your guiding post, if you are taught from a very young age to value your inner guidance more than ANY authority figure (yes, your parents included ), anything that feels oppressive, you have the clarity and strength to change . And thus save your soul from being crushed down by society's demands that only wants obedient cogs in its machines.
Freedom "gives" happiness because the state of being free is aligned with your true nature. The more you are aligned with your true nature, the more you are well. When you are completely aligned with your true nature, you are completely well, and completely free.
And ultimately, the only way to teach your kids to value freedom is to set the example for it, but even most importantly, to raise them in a way that allows them to make free choices and value their inner guidance system more than ANYTHING else in this world.
Because this guidance system is the Holy Spirit in them. ( Ok, their life force, if my religious jargon bothers you).
And because freedom is the way we are ultimately loved by God.
(or the universe, or whatever, I'm sure you got the point)
So love your kids like (a) God , teach them the highest value there is.
4. Ultimately, my kids are first God's children, then mine
It’s not always easy for me to trust that God's plan for my children is better than any dreams I might have for them. I’m just one piece of their story, even if that piece is a very important one. Thankfully, I can fail -though not intentionally!- and make all sorts of mistakes, and God is still sovereign over all and His Grace will eventually be evident in my kids' life.
Just like in everyone else's.