Almost every parent tells their child, “I want you to be happy.”
But do you REALLY mean it?
How far away from your values, and rules about what you value, would you go to affirm this statement?
I ask you this question, not in doubt of the love you have for your child or with disrespect to you as a parent, but rather with a sincere desire to create an awareness for you about what you really mean when you tell your child,
“I want you to be happy.”
There are at least three statements that you can say to your child that will change the course of their lives forever;
” I love you”, “I’m proud of you” and ” I want you to be happy.”
You may not truly understand the impact of these statements on your child’s life, but they are monumental.
Children always look to their parents for two things: approval and love.
Approval and love.
Even as adults, children want their parents to “be ok” with how they live their lives.
An adult child may not need their parent’s permission, but they want their parents approval.
A child never wishes for the discomfort that accompanies disapproval from their parents.
Plain and simple:
Children of any age want approval from their parents.
Parental approval doesn’t have to mean that a parent agrees with a child’s decision; it means that they support their child regardless of the decision the child makes.
No matter what happens in your child’s life….
No matter how independent your child becomes….
No matter how painful your child’s life was, as a result of having a parent that could have been more and done better, deep down your child will always wish they had your approval.
I have worked with a countless number of adult clients who say they don’t care about their parents approval, but their attitude and body language tell me differently.
The clients may be working on making peace with their upbringing, but they always lament about not feeling as though one or both of their parents approved of them.
So, back to my original question.
How far away from your values and rules about what you value would you go to affirm this statement:
” I want you to be happy.”
It is undeniable that each of us values particular things in life over others like family, fidelity, physical health, body image/weight, security, variety, love, financial success, attention, etc.
It is also undeniable that we have rules around those things we value.
By rules, I mean the conditions under which we experience the very things we value.
For example, if someone values love, they may have rules around love that look like this:
1. Love means that my mate tells me he loves me every time we hang up the phone.
2. Love means that my mate shows me affection in public.
3. Love means that my mate can compassionately express his/her emotions and communicate with me.
4. Love means that my mate and I have sex twice a day.
5. Love means that my mate anticipates my needs and meets them daily.
6. Love means that I have all the money I want to live an indulged life.
Let’s shift from the love of a mate to the love of a parent.
What are the rules around the love and approval that you offer your children?
Yes, love and approval ARE two different things; you can love your child and not approve of their behavior.
Ultimately, what this questions asks you to think about is what do you tie into giving your love to your children.
Let’s assume, for the sake of this post, that love and approval are mutually exclusive.
So, I ask you:
Under what conditions do you “unconditionally” love your child, accept them and allow them to be happy in the way that makes THEM happy?
Does your love look like any of these below?
1. I give my love to my children if they follow in my footsteps and do as I do.
2. I give my love to my children if they believe in the religion in which I believe.
3. I give my love to my children if they have heterosexual relationships.
4. I give my love to my children if they choose a mate within our race/religion.
5. I give my love to my children if they choose the profession that I believe is best.
6. I give my love to my children if they adhere with social norms and expectations.
Do any of these ring true for you? Which rules would you add to the above list?
I am asking you to think about what values and beliefs guide your parenting.
I am also asking you to really think about these two questions:
How much of “your agenda”, your conditions about what is right, are you still pushing on your growing children, so that they comply with what you want instead of letting them choose their path to peace and happiness and supporting them in their process?
Can you still love and accept your child if they make a life choice that goes against the rules you have for a value that you hold dear or are you a parent that needs to be right and self-centered; creating the option for you to reject your child?
Parents, understand that you DO offer your “unconditional love” with conditions.
You can’t really avoid that, even if you fully support every decision your child makes. You will always have experience and knowledge on your side, which lends itself to the guidance you provide and the opinions you have.
What I am talking about is connected to your ” parental deal breakers” around unconditional acceptance and love of your child.
I offer you a challenge:
Can you put aside your agenda, your needs, your wants, your desire to protect yourself from the disapproval of others, ENOUGH to stand by your children when they choose differently?
You leave a legacy with your parenting style that impacts generations to come.
WILL you stand by your children fully when they choose differently?
The answer to this question could change your life.