Parents, ask yourselves: are you living vicariously through your children? Do you want them to fulfill your unfulfilled ambitions?
Children need to grow into their own unique selves, not simply to be an extension of us. Otherwise, it becomes more about our unfulfilled wishes.
A friend of mine once said,
“I want to give my children the life I never had.”
It’s a caring sentiment, but sometimes parents can take this idea too far. Sometimes, our desire to give our children everything is more about us than them.
Maybe you are the stage mom who gets your esteem through your daughter’s performance. Or the dad who pushes his son to be admitted to an Ivy league school because you were rejected. Or maybe you pushed your child to cheer because that was a desire you always had in high school.
Whatever it is, we have to be careful not to push our children to fulfill our dreams versus theirs.
One way to know if you are living through your children is to assess your involvement in their lives. Here are ten questions to ask yourself:
- Am I pushy versus encouraging?
- Am I trying to control their every decision?
- Do I focus on my own goals and model for them ways to achieve dreams and desires?
- Am I saying “we” instead of “you” when my child accomplishes something?
- Am I more worried about my child’s success than my child is?
- Is being the best or winning more important than doing his or her best?
- Am I pushing my child in a direction he or she doesn’t really want to go?
- Does my child have activities apart from me or is my life completely entwined with my child?
- Am I impatient with their development of a skill or talent?
- When they don’t take top honors or first place, am I secretly angry or upset?
If you said “yes” to any of these, perhaps you are living through your child’s successes. This can strain your parent-child relationship and stress your child to not disappoint you. It can lead children to feel that love is conditional or based on performance and success. The end result can be feelings of resentment on the child’s part.
And consider this, your dreams for your child may not be their calling in life. So, check your motives.
Do you know the passions and desires of your child’s heart? Are you encouraging him or her to follow a path unique to them?
Our job as parents is to help our children discover their calling and support them in the journey.
Encourage your child to be the person God made them to be, to seek the Lord in all they do, and to walk in the confidence of the gifts and talents God has put inside of them. And while you are doing that, don’t lose sight of who you are in Christ.