28 Feb Living with the Kid You’ve Got – Not the Kid You Want
We all grow up with certain expectations: I am going to have this job; I’m going to marry this person; I’m going to have this many kids, etc. It’s normal to dream or wish for certain things in our future. Sometimes, we achieve what we set out to do and sometimes, we have to change course. At what point must we take a step back and relinquish control of this idea of the “perfect life?” At what point must we work toward acceptance of “what is?”
I often hear from parents: “this was not the kid I thought I was going to have.” Parents tend to dream big for not only themselves, but for their kids as well. “My kid is going to go to Harvard, my kid is going to play football in high school, my kid is going to be the lead in the school play”… these are wishes and goals parents make for their children, before their kids are even old enough to verbalize their own goals and wishes.
When parents start planning out their child’s life for them, they are setting up the potential for an invalidating atmosphere, an environment where their child may feel misunderstood or disregarded. An invalidating atmosphere can be as simple as a child saying they are hungry and the parent dismissing it by saying “no you’re not.” It can also be as severe as a mom telling her daughter she’ll never be thin enough to be a gymnast; or a dad enrolling his son in little league when all his kid really wants to do is dance.
Marsha Linehan (2015), creator of DBT, states, “Invalidation of emotions sends the message that the communication was not received. When the message is important, the sender understandably escalates the communication by escalating the emotion.” When children don’t feel heard and/or their emotions and wishes are blatantly disrespected they can become highly dysregulated, attempting to win love and attention through any means necessary (and sometimes in negative ways).
When your child differs from you and your values, it can sometimes be difficult to accept. We all want the best for our children. The question becomes: as parents do we always really know what’s best? It is important to listen to your child rather than impose your judgements. Have a conversation, find a middle path, weigh pros and cons; make sure your child feels heard.
While your child(ren) may not be who you had dreamed he/she would be, it is important to stay present and realize this is the child you have. If you spend your life trying to change your child you could be missing out on all the amazing unique qualities they possess.
Authored by: Tracey Weiss