Are You Parenting From the Ego?
First, I need to start by giving a definition of ego, since what I am referring to is not how we have come to understand and associate the word ego. I'm not referring to arrogance and the notion of feeling superior to others. What I'm referring to is your sense of identity; what you use to value yourself and how you allow external circumstances and events to define you.
So many of us have come to value our worth based on the square footage of our houses, the brand names we wear, the vehicles we drive€¦and most destructively how well our kids do - whether that be in school, sports, or how well they show their manners€¦because god knows I've taught them how to behave well in public!
How many times have you put on the pasty, fake smile for the passer-bys, while through gritted teeth, and under your breathe you are chastising your kids to listen? Yeah, we've all done it€¦and we've all seen it!
Believing that our children's accomplishments and behaviours are a reflection of us is ego-based. The better they do, the better we feel as parents€¦it means we must be doing somethin' right, therefore we must be valuable! €¦Thereby placing our own value and worth outside of ourselves.
Not only is this toxic for ourselves, because our self-worth is contingent on circumstances sometimes outside of our control, but it's also very toxic for our children.
Our children are so intuitive and pick up our energy whether you are aware of it or not. The expectations we lay on them are felt by them whether it's verbalized or not€¦and they will always aim to please their parents - its part of their innate makeup to seek approval and acceptance of their parents.
Trying to live up to their parent's approval and expectations is based on knowing they receive more attention and recognition when they do.
The long-term effects of this are that we then are raising children who do not know their inner selves; they lose touch with their own true wants and desires; they live their life based on pleasing others, therefore creating a life of disconnection, which can lead to feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.
Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't be proud of our children. Absolutely we should. And in fact letting your child know that you are proud of them is important; it helps to build their self-esteem. What is not healthy is if that pride is attached to how well they do; when you only show pride for their trophies, high marks, and other accomplishments. This then connects their inner sense of pride and worth with something outside of themselves. What about their creativity, compassion, generosity, sense of humour€¦..?
How many times has your son or daughter come home with a test, and they didn't do quite as well as you thought they should. What was your response? Did you give them credit for a job well done, because you knew they were doing their best? Or, did you comment on the areas where they could have improved? Perhaps you thought you'd incorporate the two and congratulate them on their work, but still couldn't resist the urge of pointing out that, €You knew that answer, if you only slowed down and really read the question. You would have done even better.€ Not that there is anything wrong with always wanting to improve from where you are, BUT what message are you sending your children?
Not too long ago an incident occurred in our household. My son brought home a folder of work that he had done in class. While reviewing it, it appeared pretty obvious that he didn't put his full effort into all his work. My husband went into a rant about €you can do better than this; this isn't your best work; blah, blah, blah,€ and I added my two-cents of €Jaden, you need to do your best work, and this isn't your best.€
Well, several days later my son had a science test. My husband and son spent days studying for this test. The day of the test, my husband calls me saying he wished that he would have taken it easier on Jaden when he brought home that folder, because he didn't want Jaden to think that he'll only be proud of him if he gets better marks. And to my husband's credit he realized it would have been better to let him know we're proud of him regardless of the mark as long as you give it your best. Because the fact was, regardless of the mark Jaden got on that science test, he definitely did put in the work and effort.
When the kids got home from school that day we had a little chat about just that.
As synchronicity would have it, when Jaden got his science test back he had totally bombed it€¦even after all that studying. This provided the perfect opportunity to practice what we had preached. He clearly put in the effort and knew the material, but due to some circumstances he didn't end up doing well on the test.
When asking Jaden if he was disappointed, he responded with, €Yeah I was at first, but then I realized this is just one test, and there will lots of other tests, so over time this one test won't be such a big deal. Besides I did study lots.€
I thought this was the perfect answer! If, as parents, we would have carried on with the initial direction we were going regarding the marks of his work, I can safely say that Jaden wouldn't have been able to reframe failing a test into such a positive attitude.
I certainly am proud of the fact that he was able to do that, but the bottom-line is that we had to let him make his mistakes without having an attachment to how it reflected on us as parents.
So, the first thing we need to do as parents is to learn when we are acting from our €ego.€ In every decision you make for your children you need to ask yourself the question, €Who is this really for? Me or my child?€
And let's be honest, saying that your child €choose this€ and €really wants this€ (ie. being put in yet another structured activity, or hockey camp, or dance class) is NOT a pure response. That is often the excuse used by parents to justify over-scheduling or pushing too hard.
Over time a child's responses are tainted because they know what the parent wants and will, more times than not, give the answer they know their parent wants to hear. It's in these cases you really need to know and understand yourself and you child, so that you can truly make the best decision.
So ask yourself, are you parenting from the ego? Hmmm, maybe sometimes? If we are being honest it happens to everyone as we go through parenting, and the key is to become aware of it, so that you can start to redirect it!