Don’t be the parent you wished you’d had

Hey there, my friend, welcome back. This is Brian King. I had a wonderful conversation with a young mother this morning who is likely to become a client.

One of the things that we talked about was the attitude of those around her that are giving her support teachers, professionals, and so on, and raising her child with ADHD.

One particular point came up, that stopped me stop the conversation, because I wanted to make sure she understood that this particular piece of advice was not going to help her and what she wants to accomplish in her goals with her child.

Ironically, of all the places to come across this advice, it was in a therapist office, it was a little sign on the wall. That said, “Be the parent you wish you’d had.”

 
I stopped her and I said, “I hate to tell you this, but that’s lousy advice.”

 
Let me explain to you why that’s problematic.

 
The first reason is, it’s important to understand that parenting isn’t your opportunity to repair the wounds of your childhood through your child.

Too many parents do that.

They say, “Well, my parents beat me. So I’m going to do the opposite.”

“My parents never gave me you know, big birthday parties. So I’m going to have the biggest knockdown drag out parties you ever had.”

All this is about meeting needs of yours almost like you want to thumb your nose at your parents poor parenting.

So you show off towards your own kid. But none of that parenting is about them. It’s all about you.

Meeting your needs trying to settle a score with the poor parenting you had.

I’m not saying that you’re coming from a vindictive place, or a vengeful place.

I am suggesting that you are coming from a bit of a hurt place, focusing on needs you didn’t have met for yourself.

And you’re being fed this poor idea that the measure of success is how good a parent you are, based on what you wish you had.

Now, just thinking about this point alone, should hopefully help you realize that, although we get into parenting for biological reasons, we’re driven to reproduce. Or we want to give a kid a good life, you know, whatever our reasons are for becoming parents.

Initially, you aren’t as self less as you would like to be. It’s about you, I want to be a parent, I always saw myself as a parent. And I’m not going to parent the way I was parented that I’m going to do it different.

 
All that is about you.

 
So when you begin with that premise, you’re already missing out on the opportunity to find out who your child is.

 
So let’s think of some other reasons why being the parent you wish you had isn’t good advice.

 
We already mentioned that it isn’t an opportunity to repair your childhood. You also have to keep in mind that your child is not growing up in the world you did.

I don’t know how old you are. I’m 49. I was an 80s kid. That’s when I went to high school. Then you have the millennials and the Generation Z or however they’re dissecting us these days.

I did not grow up with cyber bullying. With school shootings, with the 24 hour bad news cycle, the amount of pressure, anxiety, comparison, that is now accessible to kids that wasn’t accessible before.

Not to the degree that it is now our kids are under so much more pressure than we ever were.

And they don’t have the same ways to let it out. In fact, they have more access to peers. They’re getting together in chat groups, Facebook groups, that we don’t even know that they’re in.

New apps rolling out constantly that allow group communication, we don’t even know the app exists, let alone when our kids are having these conversations.

But often they find their peers understand and listen to them better than their parents do. And get it even though these peers may be feeding them very bad advice.

They’re going to go to their peers because their peers Listen, and their peers get it. So let’s move then into Well, if being the parent you wish you had isn’t solid advice, what the heck do I do instead?
 
Well, let me give you a little snippet from my own life because not only do I have ADHD, and dyslexia and bunch of other challenges, my three sons have forms of autism and ADHD.

I had the same fantasies that a lot of parents do, where my kid was going to be athletic when I wasn’t, my kid was going to be smart. Because their mother and I were both college graduates, I had this wonderfully elaborate and very low maintenance story that I told myself about how smooth things were going to go.

Because this was my child, I was somehow going to be more enlightened than the rest. And peers that I had there were already parents, they smirked at me, they shook their heads. They said, “Man, you don’t know what you’re talking about, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”

I was arrogant, and naive enough to think that they were wrong. And as it turns out, they were absolutely right.

 
It’s, not a measure of success. To be the parent you wish you’d had. The measure of success is can you allow yourself to become the parent, your children need you to be.

Because let’s say it being a parent, it’s not the opportunity to recycle what you already know, to just find some kid with an empty head and pour everything you already know, into them and say, here’s my fatherly wisdom, now go forth into the world and make a difference.

That’s not how it works.

How it works is your kid throws a bunch of stuff at you you’ve never encountered before, takes you way outside your comfort zone helps you feel stupid, like you don’t know what you’re doing.

And now you have to talk to your mother or your friend that has kids, or whoever it is it has the information you need. So they can help you grow as a person. And as parents.

Parenting is first and foremost, a growth opportunity.

You need to show up teachable.

 
The best parent is teachable.

 
They are a student of their child’s experience. Which means that they listen. They pay attention. They question everything, starting with their own assumptions, perceptions, projections, you name it.

If you are the self appointed “right” person in the house, meaning you’re the one that’s right, because you have the authority, you have all these reasons that make you think that your perception of things is the most superior. I promise you, you do not have immaculate perception like you believe you do.

You have the same flawed way of looking at the world that everybody else does, you have prejudices, bias, all kinds of filters that get in the way of learning who your child is.

And by becoming aware of those things. And knowing that they are in the way you can take them into consideration.

And you can learn to address them as they show up. As opposed to insisting that your perspective on things is the most correct.

And your child’s job is to submit, tell you that you’re right, do everything they’re told when they’re told to do it. And that’s their job.

Now, yes, we want obedient kids. But we also want kids that are resourceful, and resilient, and good problem solvers.

And we can help them do that. If we’re too busy trying to make them have the childhood we wish we’d had, instead of teaching them how to spot the opportunities in their own childhood.

So thinking about your child’s needs right now. What does your child need?

 
Like I said, they need you to be teachable.

They need your patience. They need you to be empowered. Because when you’re raising kids with special needs, you’re dealing with a very self centered, ignorant world that likes sameness, conformity, predictability, 
familiarity, and our kids are different.

 
Our kids are in a position to teach the world that diversity is what’s King. Diversity is a measure of success, not something to be threatened by. Being empowered means you are ready, willing, and confident and speaking up for what your kids need. And you can model it to them as well. So they become strong self advocates.

You also need to be very curious, like I said, be a student of your child’s experience, ask a lot of questions.

Why are they doing that? Why are they behaving that way? Why did my child say such awful things to me?

Maybe she’s hurting a lot more deeply than I ever imagined. I need to give her a good listening to instead of lecturing her on how inappropriate her behavior was, and how she can’t treat people like that, or it’s going to ruin her life.

It’s tempting to give a lecture when a child talks to you in a way that’s quote, “offensive” to you.

But 10 timeouts, is never going to accomplish what one good listening to can accomplish. Learn to be a student of your child, learn to become the parent, they need you to be, grow into a better, more flexible, more wonderful person than you ever imagined you can become.

A child comes into this world that must learn how to fly on their own strengths and make their own contribution in this world.

That’s my response to the idea that being the parent you wish you had was a good idea.

I hope that you consider my point of view, feel free to reject it if it doesn’t work for you. These are just my thoughts. It’s based on my experience. And you have any questions or any comments you want to add to this, feel free to message me here.

And I’d be happy to have a conversation with you. And if there’s somebody you know that could benefit from this message, please share. 

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