Parents, children, life, love, self-esteem and confidence

Life for most people is just downright complicated, but it doesn't start out this way: as small children life is pretty uncomplicated. We begin life with no responsibilities and are afforded the freedom to approach all that we encounter with an open and seemingly reckless abandon, to learn and grow with boundless curiosity, hope and anticipation.

We are thrilled and delighted by what our senses discover as we bumble along, and we indulge ourselves without fear or judgement. Every day provides the promise of an enthralling adventure, a new discovery, all without any requirement for justification. And then, before we know it, we are thrust into adulthood, which comes fully equipped with a whole host of rules.

Now, there are certain rules that are indeed good; rules that protect us from harm and stop us from harming others are essential, but what generally happens to unsuspecting freewheelin' children is that alongside the good rules, a plethora of other stuff arrives. We are confronted by a veritable feast of our parents' emotional pathologies mixed in with the social norms they subscribe to and, for too many, this is where it all goes awry.

When the unnecessary rules descend, all of the stuff that you happily enjoyed without questioning or qualification suddenly become subject to all manner of questioning and qualification. We are stripped of our freedom, and chastised for the products of the curiosity that once brought us such great joy, but it doesn't have to be this way. The happiest people I know approach life with an open heart, which is always accompanied by a childlike sense of curiosity and wonderment.

As we sojourn from childhood to adulthood, if the transfer of responsibility from parent to child is handled properly, we will be furnished with a set of values that will guide us through the ebbs and flows of life. Parents who provide a steady and consistent stream of love, respect, encouragement and security, set appropriate boundaries, and provide empathetic counsel, without judgement, expectations or qualification, will instil feelings of confidence, self-worth and independence. Parents who withhold love, are physically or emotionally unavailable, neglect their children's needs, are hypercritical or controlling, will instead instil feelings of low self-esteem, unworthiness and insecurity.

Parents, however, are not infallible. We are human after all and will invariably make mistakes; the trick is to fail gracefully. We must be honest and forgiving, so that we can authentically lead by example.

Parenting is actually quite straightforward, although it ain't easy. It takes time, attention, empathy, selflessness, steadfastness and commitment. Our job as parents is to be present. We must be mindful and provide abundant love and security. We must patiently nurture, guide and support our children to become the best people they can be, and to then love them for being just who they are.

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh 


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