Does Your Child Appreciate all of the Opportunities You Provide?
I know you are very proud of them because they are smart, talented and have so much potential.
I know you want to give them every opportunity to succeed; opportunities that maybe you never had.
I know you want to do so much for them because they work so hard and are so busy.
I know you take your job as their parent seriously and you don’t want to see them fail.
I know you feel disappointed when they don’t appreciate everything you do for them.
Here’s the thing,
To them it could feel like pressure to perform to meet your high expectations and standards.
To them it could feel like their best isn’t good enough.
To them it could feel like you don’t believe in them or trust in their ability to succeed.
To them your help may not seem like a sign of love or faith in them.
From this place,
It could turn into fear of disappointing you.
It could turn into anxiety and defeat.
It could turn into confusion about who they really are.
It could turn into withdrawal and depression.
No...this was not your loving intention or the outcome you envisioned when it all began.
But if this is where you are now, it's not too late to change it.
"One of the greatest tortures in life is to want something MORE for your children than they do.”
Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today
I love this quote because it speaks to a common theme among parents I serve and coexist with every day. Believe me, I get it and have experienced it myself.
We see potential in our children way before they can see it in themselves. Afterall, we have the gift of hindsight and have likely experienced regrets about our own missed opportunities and our untapped potential.
When we have children, it’s like we get a second chance! When we notice a gift or a talent in our children, we get excited and want to give them every opportunity to develop it and pursue it to the finish line!
It starts off slowly and organically... We sign them up for something to keep them active and busy. We attend their events, and start to feel our pride as parents ignite! It feels amazing, every time they perform and rise to the next level.
We think, ‘That’s my child, they are so smart, so talented, so gifted!’
So we sign them up for the next level, a bigger commitment. It’s a bit of a sacrifice, money and/or time, but it’s worth it, because it’s our investment in their future, we tell ourselves. As the years pass and they keep going, our vision expands:
The incredible athlete who loves their sport could become an olympian or be in a professional league!
The talented musician who plays their instrument so beautifully could grace the stage at Carnegie Hall with the Philharmonic Orchestra!
The artistic singer, actor or dancer could perform at the opera, on Broadway, the ballet or achieve the ultimate dream of becoming a star!
The smart kid who is in the gifted and talented program could be the next Steve Jobs, or a top surgeon or billionaire business mogul!
If all else fails, maybe they can earn a scholarship to a top college, because heaven knows, I can’t afford to pay for it!
Somehow, our moments of joy and pride when they were little, turned into hope and expectations of them as emerging adults.
Society plays a part, with competition all around us and social media highlight reels flaunting others’ successes, the urgency compounds.
We will not be defeated! We need to help them step it up!
We call coaches and teachers to advocate for them.
We prepare their meals, do their laundry and chores to give them more time to focus on their workload.
We arrange social experiences to keep them in the right networks.
We find more opportunities for them to get a step ahead.
Do you see what's happening here? This is where we begin to go from helping them to harming them. We are inadvertantly robbing them of opportunities to learn life skills, stretch their comfort zones, build resilience and self worth.
We begin to realize we have invested a lot of time, money, energy and emotion into our child’s potential. This morphs into our expectations for them to beat the competition, score the goal, ace the test, nail the solo at the recital. We actually feel disappointed if they have a bad result; our egos look for answers:
Did they practice/study enough? Do they need a private lesson/tutor?
Is this team/school good enough for my child? Should we move to a better school district/travel team?
Can we afford that private school?
Are they taking this seriously? They need to work harder!
Do they realize how lucky they are to have this opportunity?
These unconscious thoughts are our warning sign! If we are triggered or resentful when an outcome doesn't meet our expectations, it has become personal. Maybe we are pushing them down a path we inadvertantly chose for them.
Yes, this is real pain, but it's OUR pain!
Our pain is attached to a need that we are trying to fulfill. A need for certainty or significance, disguised as a dream, a sacrifice, a financial burden, or FEAR of failure; their failure as emerging adults, and our failure as parents.
This fear becomes an albatross tied around our neck. It’s heavy, it’s weighing us down every day. It’s visibly painful and creates a toxic energy bubble around us.
Is this a rewarding and fulfilling way to parent?
What do our children see and feel?
Our kids can sense our fear, but to them it is confusing; it feels like pressure, judgment and disappointment.
Pressure to perform.
Pressure to please us.
Fear of disappointing us.
Nothing they can do is enough!
We have so much riding on them it gives them anxiety and stress. Eventually they crack; the talent, the effort and enthusiasm to pursue their (once upon a time) passion is gone. It’s not fun anymore, it’s the exact opposite. THEY. ARE. DONE.
Reflection: Has anyone ever told you what they think you should be or do with your life?
>You should be a lawyer, teacher, doctor.
>You should write a blog, join a gym, eat better, worry less, go out more.
>You should, you should, you should….
How motivated are you to pursue it once someone tells you, “you should”? It kind of takes the joy out of it, right? Even if it is a good idea, suddenly your psyche doesn’t allow you to do it.
What if they had said:
>“Wow, you’re really good at that, you have a real talent!”
>“You seem so passionate about that, what do you love about it?”
>“You put so much effort into that, I can see why you’re so successful.”
Encouragement and curiosity feel SO different, right?
SO uplifting! SO inspiring!
As parents, how do we keep a healthy mindset about our children’s future potential?
While we can envision and dream about how the amazing opportunities we put in front of them may lead to a bright future; for our child to succeed, it has to be their dream, their motivation and their effort invested into their future.
We must let go, detach from the outcome, and shift our focus to how their endeavors are serving them right now:
Even if my child isn’t “going anywhere” with this talent, is the journey giving them value?
What life skills are they learning? Is it teaching them commitment, dedication, grit, sacrifice, priorities, teamwork, community, responsibility, accountability?
Is it keeping them out of trouble and involved in something bigger than just themselves?
Is it giving them structure and setting a foundation for a healthy lifestyle?
Are they building coping skills and resiliency each time they try, fail and learn?
Are they happy?
If the thought of letting go creates a wave of panic and fear inside of you, this may be your wake up call.
Ask yourself these questions to consider if this is something you are struggling with right now:
>Are you feeling pressure to keep up?
>Are you afraid your child may fail?
>Are you living in the shadow of your child's potential?
>Are you personally unfulfilled?
If you answered 'yes' to any of these, perhaps your relationship with your child and your child's performance are suffering as a result.
You are not a bad parent! You are not alone! It's not too late!
I promise you, transformation is possible!
I work with parents, teens, and families, who are going through the very same thing.
Together, we sift through the drama and emotions to get clarity around what's important and whose path is whose. Everyone begins to focus on their own personal growth, while getting and giving support within their family.
If this speaks to you and you're ready to explore further, click the link here to set up a free strategy call. We will discuss, specifically, what your family needs and whether I can help.
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Wishing you and your family calmness and gratitude through this holiday season!
PS. Don't miss my next blog, where I’ll talk about why it's important to check in on our over achievers and I'll share ten things you can do to be proactive with your child's mental health through their teen years.
Cindy Thackston is a certified professional coach specializing in youth and family connection and success.
As a mother of three teens, Cindy has daily, personal experiences in the areas that she helps her clients navigate. She is no stranger to the challenges that parents and teens are facing these days and actually walks the talk! To learn more, visit her ABOUT page here.
Interested in a confidential Complimentary Consultation? Access her online calendar where you can find the best day/time that works with your schedule.