By: Sue DeCaro
When we look at our children, we do so through a colored lens. A colored lens is a distortion of reality. But then where does this artificial lens originate? As a parent coach and a parent who has been through a transformational journey, I have learned that these lenses come from a host of different places. First, they can come from our society and the labels that are placed on our children. For example, children may be labeled as disruptive, bad, oppositional, inept, noncompliant, unable to listen, etc. We as parents may buy into this label and treat our children as if that label is who they are. In these cases, we expect that our kids are going to be disruptive everyday; or we prepare for their lack of listening by becoming defensive before we have given our children a chance. This kind of view does not allow the child to grow and learn in a way that suits them. If we parent in this manner with our glasses on, our preconceived negative labels are tainting the growth and development of our child and our relationship with him/her. Also, these glasses we wear as parents come from our own childhood, perhaps the way our parents saw us as children, raising us accordingly.
Past experiences can create these artificial lenses in us and can cloud our vision, allowing us to see only what we want to see, not what is really there – the spirit of our child. As we enter this parenting journey with preconceived ideas about who our children should be or will be, we become fixated on how to make this our reality. We may think our children are just like us – a “mini me.” However from a healthy parenting standpoint, I now know, and help my coaching clients see as well, that these glasses should have different lenses or be taken off altogether. It is about the clarity and presence we have as parents in our own lives which helps us to be able to see our children clearly for who they are, what their spirit is, and how they contribute to the family, school and the world at large.
As a parent of two girls, I had to remove the lens that I had worn for quite some time. My two girls could not have been more different. One was very strong-willed and challenging while the other was more complacent and easygoing. However, as a younger parent, I did not see this at all. I was looking through my narrow lens, looking for what I expected, what should be, and how I could mold my children into this false sense of reality – my lens. Raising my oldest daughter was a tough journey. My expectations of her were so different and often unobtainable. When I look back, had I really seen the challenge in a different way, I may have addressed the situation without looking through my lens. Instead of looking at this child as difficult, challenging, stubborn, and oppositional, I could have looked at her as strong, directed, curious, and driven by her own thoughts, behaviors, and interests. Every day was a battleground that I began to look for because I came to expect it. Daily struggles involved simple things like trying to tell her what to do or when to do it. Did I offer any autonomy? Probably not. Knowing that this child did not like to be told what to do and was oppositional, wouldn’t it have been better to build a choice into the situation? Would you like to do your homework now or after you play? When would you like to take your bath, before or after dinner? Because my lens was fogged up with a preconceived image, I became focused on the negative, perhaps even looking for it. It was as if I had expected this child not to conform to the mold that I created for her – both in my mind, from my past, and from my own upbringing. So I began to expect the negative, the power struggles, and the backlash.
When a parent has the lenses on, the child may never measure up or be enough. They will not be what we expect them to be. We want our children to feel like they are “enough” or “just right”. Having their own spirit is what makes them their unique – thriving selves. Let us not crush that by leaving our glasses on. Let us take them off and live in reality. Children who grow up in this environment feel a lack of so many things – worthiness, competence, and autonomy. Having been that child and now that adult, it is a painful process to overcome as both the victim and the lensed parent. Had I known what I know now, the glasses would have been removed and thrown out for good. I would have looked at my children closely to understand their nature, their needs, their personality, and what works best for them. A child who is strong-willed may need more choices and autonomy than an easygoing child. This does not make one better or easier than the other, just different. When we take our glasses off, the miracle of what we see is endless. We can see the uniqueness in our children, honor who they are, appreciate the moment and what they bring to it and to the family. We can truly love who they are and parent in a way that acknowledges and appreciates their spirit.