Reality TV is filled with sports dads and pageant moms who paint a disturbing picture of parenting. Watching them is enough to make anyone worry about the consequences of trying to live vicariously through your children. Learn to draw the line between taking a healthy interest in your child’s achievements and using them to fulfill your own ambitions.
Personal Action Steps
1. Resolve your own inner conflicts. Come to terms with your childhood expectations and your current reality. Focus on what you do have instead of what you could’ve had.
2. Live in the present. It’s natural to feel some nostalgia for your high school days. But, instead of spending too much time reflecting on your reign as prom king, remind yourself of all the blessings you enjoy today.
3. Set new goals. There’s always time to create new objectives to strive for. Make a commitment to go mountain climbing or renovate your basement. Figure out what you need to do to start your own business or advance yourself at work.
4. Continue learning. Sign up for adult education courses or hire a tutor. Become fluent in Japanese or perfect your chess game.
5. Accept your age. It’s easier to watch your kids grow up when you’re comfortable with your own identity. Dispel media stereotypes about seniors and search for inspiring role models.
6. Collaborate with your partner. Child rearing works best when you’re both on the same page. Open communication will help you evaluate your actions and make adjustments.
7. Build lasting legacies. Keep fleeting events in perspective. The love and respect between you and your children matters more than hitting a home run at a Little League game.
Steps to Take with Your Kids
1. Recognize your child’s individuality. Acknowledge that each child is a unique being. It will help protect you from assuming they’re an extension of you.
2. Listen to your children. Pay attention to the aspirations of your children. Their words and actions reveal their interests.
3. Encourage exploration. Childhood is a time of discovery. Share their excitement about drama club or a soccer game. Visit the library together and plan memorable vacations. Buy a family membership at your local art or natural history museum.
4. Apply pressure wisely. Excessive force can push people in the opposite direction. If your son falls behind in Algebra, talk with the teacher rather than imposing unreasonable study hours.
5. Provide positive attention. Sometimes we admire our kids for rebelling a little. Even when their pranks are amusing, reinforce values about being responsible and considerate. Create a healthy balance between discipline and praise.
6. Send clear signals. We may also feel some sadness or resentment if someone else gets something we wanted for ourselves. Maybe you looked forward to becoming a doctor, but couldn’t afford the tuition. Now it’s your child who graduates from medical school. Celebrate their achievements. Congratulate yourself for giving them greater opportunities.
7. Watch for signs of burnout. Spending more time with friends may leave them refreshed and rejuvenated. Alternating between different sports can prevent boredom and overuse injuries.
8. Be supportive. Be encouraging even when your kids decline to follow in your footsteps. Each individual has their own preferences. Demonstrate your enthusiasm by providing the resources they need to cultivate whatever hobbies they choose. Share their struggles and commend them on their efforts.
Focus on your own development and give your children enough room to pursue their own dreams. You’ll all be rewarded with closer family connections and more fulfilling lives.