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Children, Parents and Change vs Tradition Part 3

May 20, 2013

And now as a parent I can’t help but think of what a hash I made of much of my life, of the unusual and circuitous route that I took, of my wrongs and my rights and how thankfully I was generally allowed to proceed this way; to regress to my mean and constantly work towards finding my own true north.

Daniel Kaneman discuss in his book (Thinking Fast and Slow) how in admonishing or rewarding someone we often get the wrong feedback – we reserve these events for such extremes of behavior or outcome the simple law of averages – the regression to the mean – ensures that following admonishment ‘matters will improve’ and following reward ‘matters will degrade’. As a parent I have seen this myself – it’s a terrible trick of the light, a deception on what our children need most and how they respond to our encouragement or reward systems.

By deliberate omission I left out my parents when I covered history in the previous post. I have tried to distil the single greatest thing they added to my life and growth. And after several previous attempts I struck that aha moment:

Deep down whatever our differences (and there were many) I knew they loved me. In realising this I also realised what an effort it was for me to realise such a simple and basic truth.

Which probably explains why as a parent this is at the forefront of what I wish to bring to my children and their lives – the knowledge (without effort) that I love them through and through.

Setting the example

Setting the example

There can be no good to come of them thinking otherwise, and yet I see so often around me parents trading off things with their children so the children can earn their love. Unfortunately love is conditional for too many children. But don’t get me wrong neither do I support unconditional love when people interpret it as allowing their children to get away with anything they choose, ordering their parents around and having no limits.

Like dogs (unfortunate but true) children need boundaries and I’m constantly aware that it’s how and with what I draw the boundaries that creates what I get back – today, tomorrow and forever in the future.

As parents, particularly those with resources at hand, with education and upbringing, we have very few excuses as to why we can’t deliver such a valuable lifelong gift to our children as having them be fully aware – from what we say, what we do, what we don’t do, consistently – that we love them and through the much of their lives we will focus attention to their health, wellness and happiness.

As a parent my kids don’t owe me, I owe them.

I know that may sound like idealistic rot to many, but what happens if I don’t take this view? How can either side of the equation be enhanced to more than it would be under such a giving and loving scenario? I can’t see how it works another way, but I can see plenty of examples where parents feel owed – and largely get disappointment.

Just why should we expect our children to be more responsible than the example we set? If we have raised our children with the right values care and attention, should such effort be an ongoing burden or will it be more of a joy to behold?

And I’m far from perfect – of course I break the ‘ideal’ I have just written, but I always come back to being the one responsible for loving and owning how my children grow up – and that re-centers me. I need to be constantly reminded of this, constantly attentive to it, never give it up.

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