Will there ever be a time in our parenting journeys when we can indefinitely say, “I did it right!”? Many of us parents perpetually worry if we’re doing things right, all. the. time. As a parent, there never seems to be a shortage of people who suggest there are proper ways of doing things, and others have us embrace the idea that we will all mess our children up no matter who we are and what we’ve done for them. Why is it that some kids from loving, fully-engaged parents end up in prison, while other kids, who have negligent parents end up with doctorate degrees who can provocatively inspire others through motivational speaking?
Are all our best-parenting efforts lost to chance? Is it really just the luck of the draw? Do some parents win the kid-lottery? Is there any point on even trying to set goals as a parent and even try to evaluate our success? Yes! Of course there is. Of course there is a point on trying. Childhood educators, paediatricians and other educational professionals are constantly on the bandwagon of finding ways to better impact our kids. They study, research and refine their suggestions for better outcomes for
kids. And if you’ve tried taking their advice, yet your kids still end up in prison, at least you can legitimately say, “We did our best!”
Keeping your kids out of prison seems a pretty realistic goal for the most part; on a more practical level, goals for our children is entirely family-centred and unique. (In a previous post, I discussed the importance of making a family mission statement). In some families, kids who grow up able to contribute to the family business is of utmost importance, while in my family raising kids who are able to dodge whatever bullets life tosses at them, with a mindset of resilience and growth is the most important thing. Our family wants the kids to be the best versions of themselves. Not, perfect. The best meaning self-loving, respectful of themselves and others, and with confidence to handle whatever in life comes their way. While this might be our desire for our children, the journey and how we measure success greatly depends on our children’s ages and stages of life.
In my family, we have four kids ranging from two-and-a-half to 16 years old. From my perspective, kids seem to grow from seeing their parents as the most-important people in the universe, to trying to push them out and grant them independence as they reach adolescence. As a parent, it feels more gratifying to see your two-and-a-half year old respond well to you, whereas the teenage years make success a difficult thing to measure because you’re constantly being pushed away. Are the teenage years the black-out years of a parent-child relationship? Parents often watch their teenagers make certain experimental choices and cringe. Parents often want to intervene and stop a teen from self-sabotaging behaviour. Why do we blame ourselves when teens make bad choices? The more you push for something, it seems the more they want to go the other way. We lose our influence. It’s easy to say to ourselves as parents, “we’ve failed”, when we watch our teens make choices that are against everything you’ve taught them. But making their own choices and living with their own consequences is such an important piece of their journey. If they can’t learn from bad choices now, when will they?
So, success per se is not easily defined or measured as our little people are constantly growing, adapting, trying new things. Success—as you’ve likely heard before—is a very personal endeavour. It’s unique for each family. In our family, success as parents won’t be measured by good grades, money earned or other common ways success is defined. In our home, a holistic approach to wellbeing is important, and while difficult to measure the end-result, it’s easy enough to measure our efforts during our parenting journeys. Call me crazy for trying, but I’ve created a tool for my family’s definition of success, based on our mission of being the best version of ourselves.
While kids will grow to be whoever they’re destined to be, sometimes we can’t blame ourselves when we’ve gone through loops only to find our kids wanting to make their own choices that are contrary to ones we would make. We sometimes need to loosen our expectations of who they will become and love our kids no matter the decisions they make. When teens become adults, they will make their own choices and we can’t take all the credit for who they become (good or bad).
How does your family define success? Growth is so important – please share your valuable insights so we can grow together.