Recently I dived into the very important discussion of love, human error, and communication. I focused on the need for continued growth throughout our lifetime, and my choice to associate with other people who can acknowledge their humanity. But what about being human while growing up as a child or adolescent?
When I ask parents what they think about parenthood, they often place a lot of emphasis on being in control and ensuring that their children ‘follow the rules.’ But is that the right way? Does a dictator household and upbringing really work?
A lot of my life has been spent with children (at work, at home, and among friends), and the one thing that makes the most difference with kids is a sense that what they say and how they feel matters to somebody. Kids who are vulnerable to predators are often drawn in by the allure of the one person who makes them feel like their interests are important. Feeling loved and respected is a human need. If you want a genuine human connection with your children, you had better show some regard for your kids interests and tap into their needs. My stance on having a family and raising any children is this: Leadership, rather than an overly strict dictatorship, is a more appropriate model for parenthood.
Dictatorship vs. Leadership
How can you lead if nobody is willing to follow? Leadership requires people to be loyal to you, dedicated to you and your cause, and it also demands trust. In order to gain that trust you must instill a sense of care and belonging in those who follow you. Unfortunately, some parents are under the impression that because they put a roof over their kids head, pay the bills, and put food in their belly, they have done their job. Parents here this: If all anyone needed in life was shelter, basic clothes, and shoes, why are there so many stories of people stricken by homeless who were ‘set up’ with shelter back on the streets, and stories of criminals being paroled and placed back in jail? It’s because clothes, food, and shelter sustain human survival, but much more is needed in order to thrive.
Learning & Listening with Love:
A dictatorship is always sabotaged (most commonly by the persons being subjected to it), because human beings want and need to chart their own path. And it is a good thing to let your kids chart their own path: a self-directing person cannot be easily pushed around, beaten down by failure or someone else’s disapproval, forced to take on other value systems (without any debate or further inquiry), and they can stand on their own two feet, emotionally and financially, when no one is around to help them. If you tie someone’s hands behind their back for 15 years, and keep both eyes on them, they will stay exactly where you left them. But the moment you turn around, even for a minute, they will take off running for sweet freedom. Another consequence of this is that they will likely find themselves to be either too scared to do anything or too scared not to.
When parents rule with an iron fist, their children are more inclined to push visible boundaries (which are so clearly a matter of life and death to their parents) because they want to figure out who they are. Controlling parents, here’s another reality check: If you run a household that feels like an iron fist, your kids will grow up behind your back. Lessons, which your alleged ‘loved ones’ choose to not share with you, will come and transform them into someone you no longer recognize. That is the kind of loss that is difficult to overcome.
Eventually, there will come a time where you will be forced to let them go. If you give them room to take their own steps (in front of you for a time, and out of reaching range for the rest of the way), they will become better people for it. Like it or not, kids grow up: Exposure to life and its lessons will do that. But the thing that makes the difference, as to whether your kids want to be around you and share their life milestones with you, is raising your kids with a sense that they made it because you trusted them enough to let them.
Children need love, space to make their own mistakes, and a home where they won’t be shamed for making them. Educational mistakes have made you who you are today, so don’t rob your kids of their right to grow in their own way. My goal as a future parent (aside from providing an example of what a happy marriage looks like) is for my kid(s) to say, that from me, their father (we shall see who he is :)) and themselves, they learned how to love and be their very own self.
I’ll leave you with the passage that inspired this entry: