Being an Authentic Parent: True to You and Your Children Too
By Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S
Authenticity isn’t easy, no matter how simple the concept: in a world that tells us to be so many different things, it’s hard to be ourselves. And, of course, it’s hard to be an authentic parent too.
No matter how much we love our kids (and, really, because of that love), we get sucked into the “should” machine. You know the machine – it’s the loud one spinning in the back of our minds, banging like a dryer drying steel-toed boots. It gets in our way.
It does this because it convinces parents that their kids should be a number of things. They should be quiet. Or aspiring doctors. Or good at dodgeball. Or the star of the school play. Or carefree. Or outgoing. Or A-students. Or prodigies playing Mozart on the violin the day after they emerge from the womb. Or anything else.
And, usually, we guide our children with the above in mind. Often, we’re trying to mold them into who we want them to be, thinking we’re being helpful and setting them up for lives full or success. But this can come at the cost of authenticity.
So, how do you stay true to you and your children too? Start with practice, awareness, and the following:
Don’t fill in their blank: Whether we admit it or not, the motto for most moms and dads could be: Parenthood – Making it Up as We Go Along. Being a parent is challenging, exciting, and full of surprises. From the three-year-old who leaves a snake on the kitchen table to the five-year-old rationing toilet paper in case there’s a zombie apocalypse, parenthood is never boring. And it’s not something we can plan, either.
We may look at our children and see a future for them that we want – a teacher, an inventor, a preacher, a mentor. But – the thing is – it’s not up to us. Our children fill in their own blanks.
Show your child you’re interested: Showing interest as a parent is tricky – some parents take it to mean conveying your own interests to your son or daughter. You may love football and envision your son as a high school quarterback. Or you may have always wanted to sing and believe your daughter can shine in the choir. But be careful that your children are engaging in hobbies they enjoy and not just hobbies you want them to enjoy. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t introduce your kids to your loves; introduce away! But whether your loves become their loves is something they decide.
Your interest doesn’t end with your loves, of course. To practice authenticity in parenthood, embrace your child’s interests too! Ask them questions about what they like and why they like it. Strive to become part of their world and help them develop their own hobbies.
Embrace uniqueness: People, by nature, are unique. Even identical twins with the same DNA and the same life experiences have different talents, strengths, challenges, and goals. A major element of authenticity is embracing uniqueness – yours and your child’s. There’s no one in the world exactly alike! Celebrate that with your children.
When you let your son or daughter walk to the beat of their own drummer, you give them permission to be who they are. That’s a gift everyone wants to receive, no matter their age.