Now my children are heading towards adulthood, I occasionally ponder whether I prepared them well enough for independence and as I learn about other's experiences and see children's reactions to other parenting styles I feel I've learnt a few lessons along the way.
A little neglect could actually make for a more responsible adult.
When we first become parents, what we know of parenting is what we learnt from those raising us and the way we choose to parent can also come from things we thought unfair as children. We might have felt left out because we weren't bought the latest in fashion like our classmates had, or we might have resented having to do chores. This could lead to us making sure our children have everything they want and not even teaching them how to do household chores, because we know how unhappy that might make them.
Each generation has had to do less and less and we now have generations of young adults who have to learn how to look after themselves after they leave home. They often don't know how to clean or cook and aren't very good at managing their finances.
I went through parenting with the philosophy that we raise our children to become less and less dependant upon us as they grow, but when my eldest was in situations where she had to deal with small issues by herself, she ended up with me having to rescue her and then tell her step by step how to deal with these things. Something I'd figured out myself at a younger age than her. So where had I gone wrong in raising my children to be independent, when I'd put effort into trying to make sure they would be, while my parents had pretty much left me to it from an earlier age?
That's when I realised that maybe a bit of neglect is actually a way to learn. Some things have to be figured out and not taught. When you are in a situation on your own and you can't reach your parents to help you through it, then you have no choice, but to figure it out. You'll likely make mistakes, but you'll learn from them. I have a friend with two adults sons. One lived with her after she split from their father and the other chose to go back to his father at 13, because he felt he needed him more than his mother did. He ended up in a situation where the parental roles reversed and he became the parental figure. That son is very responsible when it comes to finances, but the other, who got to be a child for longer, is not so great with finances and mum has had to stop bailing him out and leave him to try and figure out how to get out of problems of his own creation.
Helicopter parenting is actually a fairly new concept. It didn't exist in my childhood and I think we're starting to realise that it's not a good approach to creating and independent adult.
Your children don't always like what you do.
When I was little my sister got to go to ballet classes and I didn't. I always wanted to dance, but our situation changed and we couldn't afford it. So when I got the chance, I took my daughters to ballet classes and they both got to do that together, because I didn't want one let out. They enjoyed it, particularly my eldest, but it didn't become a passion for them. At one point I thought it might for my eldest, but the teens hit and she lost interest. It was sad to see her move on, but she had her own priorities and I was determined not to live vicariously through her just because I didn't get the chance to dance myself.
There was a woman I knew who did Australian calisthenics when she was young and loved it, but apparently wasn’t very good at it. She got her daughters doing it and her eldest was of a similar talent level to her, but her youngest was much more flexible and became good enough to represent her state at nationals. Everything ended up focusing on the youngest daughter as she was pushed to do all hours of training that mum could wrangle. She was obsessed with living vicariously through her daughter and jealous of any who she felt might be competition for her. She was my example of how I didn't want to be with my own daughters, who both ended up doing gymnastics in the end.
Just because someone is good at something it doesn't mean they'll want to do it.
When my husband was young his father sent him to boxing training. It was something that he was interested in, but not his son. He was rather good at boxing, but he would rather have gone to scouts. He could have become professional, but by the time he was old enough to, he was also old enough to defy his father, so naturally, it wasn't the career path he chose.
Recently we had some high achiever awards after strength testing for our gymnastics club. A few people commented on the fact that the majority of award winners were junior girls and only a handful of those in level 4-6 achieved this award, with none in level 7-10 achieving it. When I thought about it, I realised that this has always been the case. Those younger gymnasts who show so much potential early on, have usually quit by the time they reach level 6. Currently our best gymnast, who brought back a gold medal from nationals this year, never used to win awards in her early days.
Which brings me to another lesson and that is that sometimes those who aren't naturally talented go further than those who are, because if you are really passionate about something you're going to put in more effort to improve at it. Most of our senior level gymnasts are there because they've worked hard to get there despite not being high achievers and naturally talented. Sometimes those with natural talent get lazy, because they're so used to everything coming easy and there always comes a point where you need to work at even those things you have a natural talent for.
Everyone learns different things from the same event.
This is probably an obvious one, really. Why is it that some who are bullied, go on to bully those weaker than themselves, while others become highly compassionate people who choose to help those weaker than themselves? Probably because we take different things away from the same experience. So when you want to teach something to your children, you may well have to make the lesson different for each child. A ‘one size fits all’ education will not yield the same result for everyone.
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