You can’t throw a stick at a group of parents without hitting one who’s actively pining for her children to be different from the way they are. While we love them the way they are (We do! We really do!), we can’t help wishing they would change.
We want them to change because we love them so much and we want their lives to be perfect, as if that were even a possibility. And so we try to change them when we see habits or natures that might trip them up down the road.
But here’s the rub. No person can ever really change the basic nature of another, including our children. We can threaten and bribe, hoping to motivate such changes. But in the end, these efforts will fail, and our disappointment will sink our loving relationships within our families.
Because, ultimately, the only persons over whom we have much control at all are ourselves.
It’s a hard truth to accept, and once you become a parent you spend the rest of your lifetime having to learn it again and again. That is not to say that we can’t impact our children. Parents’ impact is both deep and wide in the ways kids use it to create their lives. But kids do with what they receive from us is a highly individual matter.
We have tremendous power when it comes to what we want our children to receive from us.
But if we remember that we can only truly control ourselves, then maybe we can look at how our own actions might support growth in our kids.
Perhaps if we present a role model rather than a lecture, our children will feel less defensive and more open to trying new ways. If they watch us living disciplined lives as well as supporting discipline in theirs, maybe they’ll learn self-management and use it to clean up their own habits.
Parents can and should address troubling behavior with their children. We can and should provide models for the kind of health, happiness, and success we hope our kids will find. But ultimately, our kids’ own nature and personal motivation will determine how they’ll receive our loving support.