I have often had people ask me, “What did you do to make your kids turn out so good?” My general response is “nothing.” But all seriousness aside, let’s pause for a moment and analyze that phrase “turn out” not to mention “good.” I think this is a pivotal issue in raising children. Many parents feel that their job as a parent is to say, “No.” They must prove their authority or the world would spiral out of kilter. They must mold their child into this “good” person. While this is a noble ideal, it can get right square in the way of turning out good children. So, really, what did I do? I cheated! I simply defined “turning out” as becoming, and “good” as what the child becomes. Needless to say, my kids all turned out good.
A parent’s job is to support the child into becoming who they are. Preferably with love. Don’t get me wrong. There are many things a parent can do to support a child as they grow into themselves. But rethinking the premise helps the parent make it about the child, not about whether the child is making the parent look good. Rethinking the process helps the parent approach the child in a positive, loving way, rather than a condemning, judging way. If nothing else, this increases the nurture side of the equation, and most probably will also cause the nature side to flourish.
Grandpa Joe used to say, “Only those things that are done in love will endure through eternity.” I took this to mean that the “what” a parent does is not so important as what the child feels. Children are often innately wiser than their parents. They get things at a deep, genuine level because they have not yet learned all the nuances of politics, social awareness, and hidden agendas. They know when they are being squished to fit into a box. They also know when they are being guided to create a thriving space in which they can fail successfully or win without winning becoming an end-goal. They know when they are loved.
In summation, I believe that the first step is to reframe the process of raising children. Rather than viewing them as a job to do with an end result defined in advance, shift the concept just a twitch. Children are on a growth journey. Your job is to help them all you can. Their job is to become. Becoming “good” is a natural result when they feel your support and love.