We often joke with our daughter about being a “millennial” because she and her generation have a strong sense of entitlement. I realize now we are actually demeaning them and putting them in a shame position that makes it harder for them to move into adulthood.
Several nights ago, I saw a young boy running with his teammates during a football practice and he couldn’t keep up. He was embarrassed. It broke my heart to see him caught in the throes of obvious comparison and failure in the eyes of his team mates. I wondered if this was what he wanted to do? Or was he playing football because that is what his parents’ wanted?
On our journey through the child and teenage years, my husband and I realized that many times we were living our hopes and unmet dreams through our children.
This was a harsh reality for us. It took time to undo the damage in their lives, our son in particular. We had to apologize and say “sorry” more than once. Many times after a game or a tough term of school, we would admit that our perception of them was through our own eyes as a child.
The Apostle Paul gave some parenting advice when he wrote:
21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. (Colossians 3:21 NASV)
We frustrate our kids by placing our unmet expectations on them. They have enough trouble living their own lives without having to live their parents’ as well.
It grieves us that we placed unrealistic expectations on our children to fulfill the mental picture we had of them. Our intentions, like most parents, were well-meaning but most of the time we were operating from a place of fear.
Our children our trying to discover their identity and who they are. They have varied personalities and giftings within them. Some like sports, some don’t. Some find school easy, some don’t.
Some have an outward forward energy and others have a quiet, more methodical approach to life. When our children show up with a quiet methodical personality, it often doesn’t line up with the forward-pushing energy we would like to see.
Teenagers want their lives to run as smoothly and happily as we do. They want to be loved, accepted, and understood, just like the rest of us.
Discovering their identity is the main mission of teens and the emotions and frustrations they express are not less valid because of their age. Your teen might be acting out because of woundedness, insecurity and not feeling totally comfortable in situations they find themselves in.
Like many parents we found the year-end awards at school stressful because it put our kids in a position of comparing themselves with the accomplishments of other students. This comparing attitude creates a “not good enough” mindset not only in our sons and daughters but even the parents.
I like Dr. Wayne Dyer’s perception of raising children:
“Rather, we wanted our children to value themselves, to become risk takers, to be self-reliant, to be free from stress and anxiety, to be able to celebrate their present moments, to experience a lifetime of wellness, to fulfill their own spiritual callings, to be creative – and most significantly, to live with a sense of inner peace, regardless of any and all external circumstances.”
We want to blame technology and the media for our teen’s behavior, but operating from a place of fear prevents us from teaching them to make appropriate and supportive choices with the media.
Can we throw out comparison and its partner shame. Look for the best in your teenager and they will come to see the best in themselves.
You want your children to know that you honor them for who they are, and you support them individually. We want them to follow their own music not ours.
As parents we try to help guide them but we must allow them to take risks, make mistakes, change their minds and move in a different direction if they feel so inclined. The goal of every parent is to empower their children to be healthy responsible adults in all areas of their lives.