06 Apr Purposeful Parenting (Part 5): Whose Responsibility Is It Anyway?
When I first began writing the series on Purposeful Parenting, my intention was to give parents a framework for understanding and relating to their kids. What I thought would be a hard core focus on intentional parenting turned out instead to be a commentary on intentional living.
It wasn’t so much about our kids as it was about us.
Since Ginny and I have been working with young girls through our Forever We Leadership Academy over the last three years, we have also had the singular opportunity to interact with many of their parents. Our girls are now approaching middle school. Moms share that they’re concerned about things like bullying and identity, but I have a sinking feeling that the fear that drives those questions is the same one that haunts their daughters at night: “Will I (she) be popular?” Because apparently, popularity covers over a multitude of sins. I wish it weren’t true, but I hear the relief in my friend’s voices when they confirm that their kids are popular. It’s with a sigh that they say it. But let’s be honest–If you’re popular in middle school, life is just…easier.
I want to help them navigate this new territory. They’ve asked me to recommend books and websites. They don’t need them. Not really. There’s nothing magical out there that will help us be better parents to our kids. It’s what’s in here–and by in here, I mean all the things you’ve learned up until now–the things your parents taught you–both good and bad–and the things you’ve learned through slogging through websites, books, and good old fashion trial and error. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, you already hold the power to instilling your kids with the confidence they need to make wise choices.
DOROTHY Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
GLINDA You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.
DOROTHY I have?
SCARECROW Then why didn’t you tell her before?
GLINDA Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
So much of parenting can’t be taught. We just have to figure it out. We fail over and over again. Like me, maybe you end every single day regretting at least one thing you’ve done. Every. Single. Day. My poor first-born. She’s the guinea pig for every new thing we try because there’s so much we still don’t know.
Here’s the one thing I do know: Even when my kids act like they’re not paying attention to us, they are. Like little spies, they’re watching us for clues on how to relate to the world around them. Every time I say an unkind word about another person, they hear me. Every time I express jealousy or disappointment, they know. Every time I lash out at them because I’m tired or irritated or both, they internalize it.
Scary, isn’t it?
I only want my kids to see the kind, pro-people side of me. And I’ve found the more I publicly honor the people that get under my skin, the easier it is to believe these things myself. That’s why they need to see me encouraging my friends, respecting my elders, and honoring my siblings publicly.
Last week my first grader came home upset because a friend told her she couldn’t be in a dance they’ve been planning since the beginning of the year and she could no longer be in Friend Club, either (a secret club that meets out on the playground during recess). I wanted to say, “This girl is bossy. She’s being mean to you, and I don’t like the way she’s acting.” Nothing would have been wrong with me saying that. It was all true. But I knew if I did then Cari Jill would think it’s okay to call people bossy and mean, and the words, “I don’t like the way you’re acting” could easily be mis-translated as “I don’t like you.”
So instead, I said, “How did that make you feel? Honey, nobody can make you feel about bad about yourself unless you let them. Do you think there’s anyone else in your class who is sad that they don’t get to be a part of the dance or in the Friends Club? What could you do to help them feel included?” The dialogue turned into a great conversation about what it means to be a good friend instead of a bashing session about a bad friend.
It’s work. It’s practice. It’s do-overs. But then again–responsibility always is. You already know what to do. Really–you do. Purposeful Parenting is mostly just about paying attention. Thank you for being a part of this blog series. I hope we can continue to encourage each other together.
What are your best tips for purposeful parenting? Please share in the comments below. And if you found any of these five parts helpful, we’d love for you to share them with your friends.
For a complete list of recommended reading for kids and parents heading into middle school or for more information about the Forever We Leadership Academy, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to connect with you!