Monday, October 17, 2011

Why not make it better?

Somehow, we adults have decided that just because we had to deal with something as a child, it's OK for our children to deal with it too.  It's even expected, a rite of passage, or just the way things are.  So often it's "Yeah well, I had to (fill in the blank) and I turned out fine!".  Lots of people say this about spanking, which I won't go into here - there are plenty of other places to read that spanking does nothing to increase your child's ability to learn anything about right and wrong.  What I am surprised about is all the other stuff we think is fine for them to deal with - "my parents did that to/with me" or we figure "we were just like that" when we were younger.  Or "please, there are worse things!" - of course there are always worse things!  That doesn't mean we should just carry on with the OK stuff. 

Actually, I think we just don't think about it.  There are things that just *are* and we have just been so busy, tired, distracted, clueless, that we aren't paying attention to how silly or harmful these things can be.  And don't get me wrong - there are some personality, developmental, and just plain "there" traits that make up each person.  It would be sad if we were all the same, and of course, everyone should be who they are.  But sometimes, the things that come most naturally to us are things that impede our relationships.  Sometimes the things that are easier are not doing us any favors. 

I can be a perfectionist, passive aggressive, judgemental, sarcastic, and snippy.  I like to have things my way, and I like to be in control.  I'm not a bad person, but there are certainly some things I'd prefer to do differently, and I know that "letting it all hang out" is not going to win me any favors.   I know that as I have grown, and realized how my actions impact other people, I have been able to manage some of these traits better, and find that I am more satisfied with life in general when I do what is harder for me rather than go with my first impulse.  Why wouldn't I help my kids to do the same?  Why would I want them to be controlling just because "oh, that's just like me!"? 

I'm not saying our kids shouldn't have to manage and negotiate their way through life and we should pave the way completely for them. I just think we have an amazing and unique opportunity here.  Based on what we know about ourselves and what we remember from our past, we can help them deal with the world in a different way.  We can help our kids be better at conflict negotiation that we are.  We can show them that what they say and do is important to us, and that they have interesting ideas to share.

Why is this so hard?  I think it is because it forces us to take a good hard look at our own actions, faults and shortcomings.  It makes you dissect your past a bit.  Instead of just feeling crappy about our own stuff, helping your kids through things forces you to face your issues head on and deal with them.  You have to be reflective, and honest, and open, and vulnerable.  You need to identify what works and what is not working in a non-judgemental way, both for yourself and your child.  Maybe you even need to share with your kids how you screwed something up and how you could have done it differently.  No one is perfect, and we needn't expect our children to be, nor should we be stressed about our own imperfections. 

So think about your childhood and the things you wished had been different.  Think of the big things and the little ones.  How would you change them?  What could someone have done for you to make it better, easier, more fun, less scary?  Are there times or people you can remember who did make an impact in a positive way?  What did they do that was special or life changing?  What can you take away from those experiences?  What can you do for your children to make it better? 

Do one thing today.  Why wouldn't you?

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