Man, parenting can be tough! I have had the unfortunate opportunity of seeing just how challenging parenting can be over the last couple of months. There are many parenting tips out there, but nothing can prepare you for what you really experience as a parent. Trust me, I have read book after book and I am still in search of the ultimate parenting tips to get my daughter to stop talking back and my son to clean up his room!
Seeing Your Flaws
My tween daughter has been going through a lot and it has been very difficult for me emotionally. She has always been such a strong-minded girl and I am slowly seeing that piece of her drift away. For the longest time, I have sheltered her from all of the ugliness of the world. As she is getting older and I am becoming more comfortable parenting a tween, I am realizing the importance of letting them see your flaws. Life is not easy and it is definitely not perfect and their little hearts need to be able to handle that. It is a sad and unfortunate reality, but something that I feel is important in keeping tweens self-esteem in tact.
The other day, my daughter came home from school and she was devastated. She is an A student and did not do so well on a recent math test. She was beside herself and you would have thought the world was coming to an end. As much as I hate to admit it, I saw myself in her that day. I have always struggled with perfectionism, but it was not something that I had every really talked about with my daughter. That evening, we had a long talk about it being okay to make mistakes. As I told her, it is how we handle our failures that is most important and that is where we really grow. She really appreciated that conversation. It put her mind at ease to know her seemingly “perfect” mom makes mistakes too.
Sheltering is Not Reality
When my daughter was first born, I planned on sheltering her from all the ugliness in the world. For the longest time, we barely let her watch any TV and we never turned on the radio. As she got older, I realized there was no way to shelter her from those outside exposures. Even if she was not watching or listening at home, she was going to pick things up at school. When she was about seven, I started easing up on the restrictions that we had at home. I let her watch the shows on Disney and listen to Taylor Swift, although I did not feel completely comfortable with that decision. I knew that we needed to give her opportunities to experience an imperfect, unsheltered life. She needed to experience reality.
What I also learned during this same period, is that I could no longer hide my emotions from my children. They need to see when I have a bad day and how I react. It is important for them to know that I do not always “win” and that I make mistakes, often more than I would like to. They need to know that I do not get along with everyone. It is also important for them to know that there are times when others disagree with me and I disagree with them. They need to see me and their dad living life in reality.
We Do Not Live in a Fantasy World
Why is this important? Because your children are not going to live in a Daniel Tiger world in which everything works out according to plan. Life is harsh and raw and there are going to be a lot of struggles in their journey to adulthood. Children need to see how their parents react when they are challenged or struggling, so they know how to respond when their time comes. As much as we don’t want to believe this, their little eyes are always watching. Always!
My daughter is currently being bullied by a “mean girl” at school. A while back, I was in a difficult professional relationship with someone. Our views on certain topics clashed and we just flat out did not get along. While I was not bullied by her necessarily, it was a very toxic relationship. I talked to my daughter about the situation that I was in during our routine walks. We talked about my challenges and how I chose to rise about the situation that I was in. I did not hide anything from her. While her situation is different, I think it helped her understand how to react in the situation she is in today. She is handling herself with dignity and grace, despite the constant put downs and I cannot be more proud of her.
I am certainly not saying that you should expose your children to everything. It is an ugly world out there and some things are just better if they do not know. However, it is important for children to hear about the bad days. You should talk to your children about some, not all, of the struggles that you are going through. They should see you when you are not having a good day. You should talk to your children about how you handle those not so good days.
On the same hand, children need to see your successes. They need to know that despite the ugly and the pain, there is so much good. Children need to see you loving life and experiencing joy. Children need to see you living your best life!