Raising children is one of the most challenging responsibilities that we have as human beings. The process of parenting is extremely complex and often unpredictable. Every generation of parents must learn new ways to fulfill the parenting role. There are no fixed and absolute methods for raising children that will guarantee a positive outcome.
Through research, counseling, and personal experience, I have come to believe that the best gift parents can offer their children is an emotionally and psychologically mature and healthy person. That is, a person who has a well-defined sense of self and authentic self-esteem.
These parents know who they are, what values they stand for, and are committed to self-care. This allows the parents to parent from a position of confidence and flexibility, rather than fear and rigidity. Raised in such a parental environment, children learn to manage themselves and the inevitable frustrations and stresses of life in mature and healthy ways.
These children are more likely to avoid maladaptive behaviors such as excessive drinking; drug use and abuse; poor academic and work performance; and sexual promiscuity and acting out. In contrast, these children are more likely to develop healthy and effective interpersonal relationships and have better life outcomes.
This way of parenting allows parents to recognize that they do not own their children but are called to nurture them in ways that teach them to nurture and support themselves. We often learn and/or fail to learn these skills in our families of origin. When raised in contexts and with people that are healthy and confident, we generally repeat these strengths and patterns in our own lives. This transference is known as the multigenerational transmission process.
We take to the next generation what we have been given in our families of origin.
In my view, the guiding aim of parenting is to raise children for the long-haul. That is, children who can be strong, solid, and steady throughout the course of the life-span, however long this may be. Every generation faces its own unique challenges and opportunities.
Some generations handle these forces more successfully than others. But they are always present across generations. However, the need for strong, self-sufficient, and compassionate children and adults is always necessary in every generation.
Fredrick Douglass famously said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” While childhood is not determinative, it is highly predictive. So much so, many people never quite get beyond their childhood experiences. It often repeats generation after generation.
Indeed, many years of clinical practice has taught and confirmed that I only see children in therapy no matter their age. The home we were raised in and the people who raised us matters and matters a great deal.
Here, we must remember that we were someone’s sons and daughters before we became or become someone’s husband, wife, father, or mother. Out of these experiences come the issues and successes of life, particularly relationships.
Further, children often are unable to grow beyond the maturity level of their parents and/or significant caretakers in their lives. This perspective is far from blaming the parents for their children’s outcome, but rather present an invitation to parents to grow their Differentiation of Self (maturity).
The maturation process is life-long, both for parents and children. So, be patient, give yourself some grace, and keep working to manage yourself and yourself alone. If so, you and the children will be fine.
If you are struggling with the experience of parenting or just want to improve your effectiveness, perhaps counseling or coaching would serve you well. Book an appointment today.