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Striving to be a better parent means being a better human

Striving to be a better parent means being a better human

Becoming a parent brings a new kind of love into your life. It creates a kind of pure adoration and responsibility to love this child fully and unconditionally. It shows you that moments are precious. And it makes you feel the need to create a better world for your kids by spreading love and compassion.

To experience life to its fullest, we must focus on the important things, which are small, present and moment-to-moment. This article offers advice on finding these important moments and striving to be a better parent, and in turn, a better human being.


Do

Do have faith in your children

Parents want their kids to work harder and do better, so they plan more activities and lessons to fill up their “free time.” What’s too bad is that in doing so, they create a world in which children are under tremendous pressure to excel all the time. When children are pushed to excel, they never get to experience the wonderful lessons that are learned from failure.

It is fairly easy to guide our children to becoming the kind of people we think they should be. All we need is some vision, some recollection of our own experience, some vigilance, and our natural parental gift of lecturing. But it’s a very different piece of business to help our children find the happiness that comes with discovering where they belong in life. For that, we need faith.

Not the faith that kids won’t fail—because they will. And not the faith that they won’t make stupid decisions—because they will. Rather, faith in their resilience. This resilience comes from the wisdom our children have always had—but don’t know they have until they need it. And ultimately, resilience comes from the gift of life itself; we get wounded and then we heal. It is inevitable.

Do experience love

It seems as if the more we let go, the more we experience love. Love is beyond everything else—anxiety, desire, hope, and resentment. Love is openhearted, demands nothing and needs nothing. It is more likely to visit when our desires are quiet, when we don’t need or want much, and when we accept that everything we love is not permanent, but it with us at this very moment.

Do listen to your kids

Adults live such fast-paced lives. We are so caught up in our own concerns and insecurities that many times we don’t even hear what our children are trying to tell us. We may hear the words, but too often, we miss the meaning. This has been described as “drive-by parenting.”

If we want to really hear our children, we need to take time to first listen to ourselves. Only then can we listen to them. The more you listen, the more your kids will speak to you. If you listen with an open heart, your kids will speak with an open heart. And in turn, this will help you both to learn to care deeply about each other.

Do understand your inability to protect kids from everything

Parents try hard to protect their kids and make everything right for them, but we can’t. The truth is, they are on their own paths—not ours. But children are wonderfully adaptive. They can handle much more than we give them credit for. They can teach us about adaptation, healing and devotion—if we listen.

Find delight in watching your kids and understand your inability to protect them from the world. Love is much easier when we have faith in our children’s resilient spirit.


Don't

Do not project your anxieties onto your kids

Many parents push their children relentlessly to achieve, ultimately because parents are afraid of the future. But parents need to manage their own anxieties and fears. They need to view their children’s struggles as their own, solely belonging to their children. If they do, parents can be more compassionate and have faith that their children will be okay.

Do not forget to giggle

When people become adults and begin listening to their demanding egos, they start taking themselves way too seriously. And if you were to drop in on most adults’ minds at any time, these minds would probably be somewhere in the future, planning for things that will most likely never happen. Adults worry about most things that kids find silly. Kids have yet to master the fine art of worrying. They know that most of worrying is just plain silly. But adults forget.

The truth is that adults can learn a lot from kids. They can teach us not only how to let go, but that happiness is about being near people we love, giving and receiving kindness, and giggling several times a day.

Do not live in the future

Many adults fear the future. And when confronted with the fragility of life, it’s hard not to think about the future. When we do, however, we are at risk of living in the future. That is the real tragedy because living in the future takes us away from the life we have today.

Don’t spend so much of your energy pursuing the life you want or avoiding the life you fear. Instead, have the faith to live the life you have—and live it fully, with great love and gratitude.

Do not underestimate the importance of taking care of yourself

Most parents are overly involved with their children, making sure they are getting good grades and filling their social calendars with activities. And most of these parents complain that they themselves don’t get enough sleep or downtime. When asked why they work so hard, the answer is always the same: for the children. Parents believe if they continue on this path, it will lead to a better life “tomorrow.”

But many children feel guilty about how hard their parents work. They try to perform their best so as not to add stress to their parents’ life. The result is two generations sacrificing themselves to take care of each other.

What’s the solution? The answer is simple, yet so difficult. Parents must fix their life and take care of themselves. It is an act of love to their children to find meaning, joy and contentment in their own life. Devote more energy to your spouse, to caring for your own life, to giving voice to your pain and compassion to each other. Go out on dates, take dance lessons together and hold hands. Try to pursue happiness.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

What does it mean to be a good parent? What does it mean to be human? If you look into another person’s eyes, you will find a human who is tender and vulnerable, one who pursues security, happiness and love. You will find someone who is capable of great, selfless compassion and one who can be terribly self-centered. You will find someone who has been hurt and who, in turn, has hurt others. You will see a hypocrite, a child, an orphan, a warrior and a hero. You will see someone who wants more love. And if you look deeply into another person’s eyes, you will see that person’s soul. And then you will discover what you have always known about your own humanity.


More expert advice about Being a Better Parent

Photo Credits: Dad and Son Fishing by Yinghai via Flickr; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Daniel Gottlieb PhDFamily therapist, radio host and author

Practicing clinician for over 40 years. For the last 25 years I have been hosting a radio show called “voices in the family” on WHYY FM, Philadelphia’s NPR affiliate. I’ve written several books including best-selling “Letters to Sam”. And I spea...

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