I have been so inspired & changed by what I’ve read this week, that I simply had to share.
Before I begin, I would like to make two things clear. The first is that the purpose of this post is to instill hope and excitement into those who are eager to parent well. I am new to this whole parenting thing and am trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can… I love to share what I’ve learned. The second is that although I believe we have powerful opportunities as parents to love our children well, I also believe that their hearts & souls are ultimately in the hands of God, and because of that, I am grateful that we serve a God who loves & hears us.
“Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.”- Brene Brown
I have been reading (& just finished) the book “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown. She talks about how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, and lead. As I was reading, I continually asked myself one question: How can I apply everything I’ve learned about shame resilience and embracing imperfection to parenting my son? After mulling over my notes, I have decided to summarize “wholehearted parenting” into 1 central message & 5 key points.
Central Message: Be the person you want your child to become.
As Joseph Chilton Pearce writes, “What we are teaches the child more than what we say, so we must be who we want our children to become”.
I’m not insinuating that we have total control over our children’s temperaments and personalities because we don’t. But it has become abundantly clear that we do have powerful parenting opportunities in other areas.
What we hear, what we are told and how we observe our parents engaging with the world can radically shape our sense of love, belonging, and worthiness. Our sense of worthiness and “being enough” begin in the home… with our families.
Here are 5 key take away points I’ve learned in “Daring Greatly” about parenting children who grow to love and accept who they are:
- Compassion and connection can only be learned by experience.
Let them experience this first-hand in the home. Instead of attempting to tell them what to do and feel, we must create opportunities within the family to experience these things. We must create a culture within the home that promotes empathy and kindness.
- Shame is contagious
We cannot raise children who love & accept themselves unless we love and accept ourselves. If we are filled with shame, anger & self-doubt, this will naturally seep into our words & actions. It does no good to simply tell my son to love and be kind to the kids at school while he overhears me make a rude comment about somebody else. I cannot merely instruct him to take it easy on himself when he makes a mistake, while he watches me self-scrutinize and beat myself up over a less-than-perfect grade on a term paper. If we feel a deep sense of shame, this will naturally manifest itself into our actions and our interactions with them.
- Separate your children from their behavior
There is a monumental difference between saying, “you did something bad” and “you are bad”. When we label our children and shame them, we take away their opportunity to change, grow and try new behaviors. If we tell them “you are a liar”, rather than, “you told a lie”, then what potential for change is there? Shame destroys the part of us that says we can do and be better.
- Invest your time & energy into them
This kind of active engagement requires sacrifice, but that’s what we signed up for when we decided to become parents. Engaged parents sit down with their children and seek to understand their worlds, interests and stories. When you sacrifice your own time to do this, they will instinctively know how deeply loved and cared for they are.
- Let them experience adversity
This will, without question, be the most difficult to abide by and because of that, I’ll spend the most time here.
We are chronically intervening, rescuing & protecting. It’s not that our children won’t be able to handle the vulnerability of their own situations… it’s that we can’t handle it. But here’s why we must let them struggle: hope is a function of struggle.
Hope is not an emotion; it’s a cognitive process… a way of thinking.
Children with high levels of hopefulness have experience with adversity. They’ve been given the opportunity to struggle and in doing so, they learn how to believe in themselves. They’ve learned that they are capable of handling hardship. They learn that, despite really difficult circumstances, the world isn’t ending. They’re still standing. They can have hope in overcoming future obstacles (which are inevitable).
“If we’re always following our children into the arena, hushing the critics, and assuring their victory, they’ll never learn that they have the ability to dare greatly on their own.”