“I don’t want him to grow up to be entitled.”
“What if she grows up to be selfish?”
“I’m worried he won’t understand how the real world works.”
So many of us are weighed down by fears based entirely in the future, some years or even decades from the present. In The Awakened Family, Dr. Shefali points out that, “Our relationship with our children is as rooted in fear as it is in love…when the ratio of fear to love is skewed, such that fear wins, our approach to our children creates an effect that’s the opposite of what we hoped for.” When our choices are driven by our fears, it distorts how we relate to our families. It limits how present we can be with the children actually standing in front of us.
What if instead of parenting from a place of fear, we chose to parent from a place of trust? Trust that our children will be okay. Trust that as long as we are truly doing our best, our parenting is good enough. Trust that even if our children aren’t the smartest, most successful, or most athletic of their peers, they can still find a life of meaning. What if we truly believed in their inherent goodness? How would this change the choices we make?
As is so often the case, I’m not immune from these types of fears. I worry about what life will be like for my sensitive son. I worry about how he will fare with peers and with authority. I worry that something or someone will crush his huge heart and sweet spirit. It’s so hard not to be fearful. I love him so much just the way he is, and I don’t want him to ever believe that being male means he can’t also be his tender self.
Instead of parenting from fear, I will do my best to give my child the tools he needs to remain true to himself even in the face of adversity. I will dare to let go and trust in the process of his development.
His dad and I will ensure that he always has a safe haven to return to when life gets him down, and in doing so we’ll give him the courage to wander out into the big world.
We will dare to trust him to tell us what he needs through his words and his actions, and we will choose to believe him.
We will dare to believe in his ability to be exactly who he is meant to be.
That will that change our entire approach to parenting. As Nelson Mandela says, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” Focusing on our hopes will change the way we relate to and ultimately raise our sensitive boy.
Fear-based parenting instills fear, so the opposite must also be true. If we raise our son with trust, he will learn to trust himself. If we’re secure in who he is, he too will be secure.
What if we realized that it’s not our job to shape our children into who we want them to be but rather to create an environment conducive to their individuation? We can’t force our children to be successful, kind, or even happy. What we can do is model our values and trust our children to find their own way.
If parenting from a place of trust rather than one of fear, we might enjoy our children more. We might learn to relax. The knots might loosen, and we might smile more.
As Taoist and author William Martin reminds us, “You do not have to make your children into wonderful people. You only have to remind them that they are wonderful people.” Expressed similarly by author and activist Glennon Doyle, ““Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one.”