Being a parent is a tough job. We try so hard to provide an environment that is nurturing, safe, and loving. But, sometimes we tend to forget that they are separate individuals. Their behavior is their behavior. Something, as a parent, we need to guide and make sure is appropriate, but is not an extension or reflection of us. Like when they act out in public- our first reaction is embarrassment, then anger that we can’t control our child better. But, we need to remember that we can’t control their behavior and the more we try, the more they act out. When we remember it is not a reflection of our parenting skills, we can then see the situation more clearly and respond better.
I remember hearing a father tell the story of when he wouldn’t give his 8-year old daughter a candy bar she was demanding. So she threw a tantrum in the middle of the store, sure he would cave. He took one look at her, got down beside her, and started kicking and screaming too. He said she was so mortified, she never did that again!
Other behaviors are benign and an expression of who they want to be. Too often, we still see ourselves in their presentation and limit their growth to only what feels comfortable to us.
My daughter had her own sense of style since she turned two. I realized early on that letting her choose her clothes within parameters of appropriate size, cleanliness and where we were going, was wiser then forcing my decisions. It also gave her control in a world that dictated everything she did. One such day she picked out a red/yellow polka dot top, blue/purple pants, different colored socks and mixed rainbow colored hair bows. She proudly presented herself when done and asked,
“How do I look, Mommy?”
I have never lied to my daughter, so after careful consideration I responded,
“You look very colorful today.”
I could see the wheels turning inside her head as she pondered that answer. Then she said with a bright big smile,
“I feel colorful today!”
Her dress was silly, but appropriate for her age and frankly, just adorable. We received many looks that day, some I’m sure questioning my sanity. But, it was easy to share the joy and pride she had in her selections when it no longer reflected Mom.