"Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do." ― Benjamin Spock
My approach to parenting is to stay open-minded and flexible as possible. I see my child as an individual; a person whose voice is valid and important. This does not mean I go easy on her when it comes to discipline. She is well aware of the boundaries within our relationship. She can talk to me about any and everything at any time. I make time, regardless of the situation, even if it means setting a time to address a concern. My parenting style emerged from deep, inner self-reflection and the need to change inherited, dysfunctional dynamics of my own upbringing. This year my daughter turns 18, and I'm beginning to see the results of my efforts.
Balance and Setting Goals Early
Recently, my 17 year-old daughter was selected for an arduous interview process for an internship. It was her first time being interviewed, and she was psyched about receiving the offer to start. The other candidates were mostly college students, so this was a major feat for her. She prepared for this moment since age 8. Her dream is to become a published comic book artist and character designer. Excited about receiving such an awesome opportunity, she quickly accomplished the requirements to set up her account to receive assignments. She is enrolled in an online homeschool program due to health issues, and the internship happened to be an online job, so it was a perfect fit. A mild-tempered child, my daughter tends to strive for balance in any given situation. However, she soon discovered the importance of using her voice in a work environment. By extension, I soon realized another job was added to my weekly, homeschool agenda: teaching my child how to manage her first internship.
Breaking Away From Old Patterns
Coming from a broken, domestic violence home, breaking unhealthy parenting patterns became my mission as a parent. I looked at the positives that could be salvaged from my childhood experience with my parents, incorporated those, and discarded unworkable, toxic ones. This was not a simple task. It took years of honest, internal self-analysis to wean myself away from old patterns taught by my parents, which no longer served my modern parenting style. However, with persistent and consistent practice, I made progress. As a result, my daughter is now making decisions for her life based upon the foundation I pioneered.
Feel that Inner Power
The opportunity to intern as a high school senior is a huge decision for any teenager. It is even more so for a teen with GAD, (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and other health issues. GAD is a mental condition that causes an individual to be anxious and worried about every situation. We learned about this diagnosis after years of running around, visiting multiple doctors and undergoing a battery of intense tests. Learning the reason for various medical problems and symptoms surfacing over the years is allowing my daughter the space to finally breathe. She is beginning to feel a sense of control even within mercurial situations. Starting her first internship with a company set off all kinds of stressors, but she is learning to manage herself and stay steady. This is one of the areas where my parenting approach is beginning to show its impact in real time.
"Nothing can dim the light which shines from within." ― Maya Angelou
Speaking Truth to Inner Power
Since my daughter is the youngest amongst a group of college-age workers, it's easy to feel intimidated. However, she refused to allow her age or inexperience to stop her momentum. When two older workers were condescending and dismissive of her work, she spoke up to management immediately, letting them know that her efforts in a collaborative effort were just as important to the process. Her concern was that the older workers were using her as a receptacle for work that did not appeal to them, which she and her manager discovered during a group meeting. She told management that it was important to utilize her skills in a place where they were best suited. As a result, the manager now supports her in meetings and she is doing work suited to her abilities. To speak up to adults in a new setting where she is still under evaluation was no small feat, especially for a teen with GAD. Yet, my daughter forged ahead. No matter how difficult, clearing a space of anxiety-causing issues is of the utmost importance to her. Since she knows the effects her condition can create, she feels an urgency to tackle all incoming obstacles instead of letting them accumulate to the point of causing a crisis.
Applying Lessons Learned
In essence, my daughter effectively applied the lessons taught from our years of healthy interaction as parent and child. She remembers the many times I expressed the importance of using her voice in a reasonable and articulate way to achieve her goals; to always face problems head-on. When she was confronted by the tactics of older students, she was not intimidated or sidelined. Since she sees herself as an individual and a person who has something of value to add, she had the courage to stand her ground and to use her voice. It did not matter that she was the youngest, or 'the intern', as her coworkers referred to her instead of using her name, which was provided multiple times before, she had a healthy sense of self and chose to let them know. One of the unexpected turn of events is that they no longer call her by this blanket term due to her manager standing up for her.
"There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings."
- Hodding Carter
Time to Take on the World
This experience is illuminating on many levels. It goes to show that time spent nurturing a healthy and well-rounded child is worth the effort. There were many years where I felt alone because my efforts as a parent were sometimes seen as coddling. However, I forged ahead, letting my intuition guide me. Today I am grateful for the lessons learned from a difficult and unconventional life path; those lessons allowed me to raise a child who has many positive aspects to her personality and character. No one is perfect, and she certainly is not. Nevertheless, the fact that she is willing to acknowledge her imperfections and move beyond them is extremely gratifying to me as I continue to evolve in my role as a parent. It is nice to know that as adulthood approaches my daughter is obviously strong enough to handle life on her own terms.
"10 Ways to Love the One You're With" is an article on AhaParenting.com. It caught my attention because it list ways to help us accept our children as they are. It inspired me to make some suggestions of my own. Here are a few suggested tips for helping your child to strengthen their inner voice:
1. Let your child know that you are available:
Listen attentively to what they are saying without distractions. This must be a consistent practice. If your attention wanders apologize and let them know you are still listening. This builds their confidence allowing their inner voice to develop. If a child feels the adults in their lives value their opinions, they will not shy away from speaking freely about their feelings, likes and dislikes.
2. Gain and keep their trust:
Children are constantly listening to our words and watching our actions, they are continuously watching to see how honest we are. It is extremely important for them to see us following through with our promises. If we fall short of a promise, for whatever reason, it is best to tell them the truth. Actions like these engender trust that will build over time. As they age they will come to us with their deepest problems. Gaining a child's trust is of the utmost importance to a parent, but once you have it you must work to keep it. Do not take their trust for granted.
3. Support in difficult times:
Our children need to know that we support them during times of difficulty because we are their entire world; they count on us for everything. When my daughter told me she could no longer attend public school, I put everything aside and focused on her reasoning. I was not sure how to move forward, but I was impressed at her clarity and determination. If a child comes to you expressing their deepest fears and anxieties this means they value your input. In times like these it is of the utmost importance to stand strong with them.
4. Have those difficult conversations.
Parenting is not easy and there are no set road maps. We all must carve our own paths and each child requires a different path. The difficult questions and conversations arise as soon as they can talk. Sometimes we have no answers, but during these times we need to stay engaged. It is best to make a habit of having difficult conversations from early on because the questions only become more difficult. If we avoid our children when they say or ask things that make us uncomfortable they will seek answers elsewhere. Having those difficult conversations will serve you in the long run because they will seek you out first if trouble ever strikes.