Expert Blog Compelling advice, stories, and thought-provoking perspectives straight from YourTango's lineup of Experts to you

The True Role of a Parent

Happy Children

The greatest gift that we can give to our children is the gift of unconditional love and empowerment

As parents, we often focus our attention on teaching our children life lessons and setting standards for them to meet or exceed.  This includes expectations for superb grades in school.  Don’t get me wrong, teaching and goal setting are important parts of parenting, but they should be balanced by an emphasis on positive reinforcement, upliftment, and empowerment.

The greatest gift that we can give to our children (and truly to everyone in our lives) is the gift of unconditional love and empowerment.  As parents, we can give them the confidence and the wings they need to rise up to meet their own goals and expectations.  We need to allow them to be who they are, and not expect them to be who we want them to be (which is typically either a mini version of ourselves or someone better than who we think we are).  We should triumph their natural talents and celebrate their successes, no matter how big or small they may seem, as children need encouragement more than discipline.

When if comes to discipline, it’s human nature to be harder on ourselves than anyone else would ever be on us.  It’s important to defuse that negative inner voice of self-criticism (or “stinking thinking”) at an early age.  As parents, we can teach our children through example, and model the behavior we’d like them to emulate.  This means giving up the need to be perfect in everything we do, and accepting ourselves “as is”, blemishes and all.  Self-love is at the root of unconditional love, and it takes unconditional love to truly accept others for their own unique selves. 

As a former Psychology major, I entered into parenting with the belief that it was nurture rather than nature that determined the characteristics my children would carry through life.  It wasn’t long before I realized that I was at least half wrong!  My oldest daughter is a carbon copy of my husband, who had much less interaction with her than I did when she was younger (as he was at work most of her waking hours).  I tried tirelessly to make her more like me, with little to no success.  It wasn’t until I gave up on the notion of changing her that I truly came to see the beauty in all that made her different than me.  I then began to triumph her strengths.  Rather than working to defuse her incessant need to argue, I began to compliment her on her amazing debate skills and encourage her to sharpen them, as they will serve her well in life.

That simple shift in MY attitude created a shift in her sense of personal power.  She has grown into an amazing young lady with the confidence to speak her truth without fear of judgment.  She has set higher goals for herself than I could ever set for her.  I often find myself in awe of her inner strength and personal power! 

Sometimes we need to let go of our vision for our children, and allow them to create their own, as it may very well be grander than anything we could imagine.  But most importantly, it will be theirs to reach for and achieve, and our role is simply to stand on the sidelines, cheer them on, and help them celebrate! 

This article was originally published at Live Balanced For Life. Reprinted with permission from the author.


Explore YourTango