LAST week I shared an experience with my daughter as a prelude to my theory on “parental contentment.” I shared my starting point that people may comment on our parental decisions, and these may even come from people who truly love our kids, but it’s our decision to treat all words as research and not judgment, and to discern and not panic or self-judge. With our current exposure to information and social communities, seeking parental contentment is not just important but even essential in today’s parenting world.
What is parental contentment?
- It’s a sense of calmness and appreciation for our parental roles and actions.
- It’s gratitude for the gift of that meaningful pursuit to lead our kids to their own life journey.
- Whatever the outcome, we know we did our best, and our kids know we love them no matter what.
Below are some of tips on this topic.
- It starts with parental leadership. As a parent, we’re aware that the moment our babies are born, we have the responsibility to raise them as best as we can. Especially in their younger years, we need to take the lead. As much as it is easier to give in to our kids’ wishes, it is also our role to foresee the consequences of our current actions. That’s why parent leadership calls for a strong sense of self, clear principles and rules and, more important, a genuine desire and commitment to usher in the best future for our kids. You can read more about this in my column on May 11, 2016.
- It’s seeking for your child’s emotional goals, not creating a rÉsumÉ. Like I shared last week, I aim for my kids to be happy and fulfilled. Since they were babies, raising their heads during tummy time, I loved observing those happy and fulfilled moments. When they got to the big school and would win awards, my first question to them was how did it make them feel. With my son, getting an award was just okay. What he liked was doing the work, especially math. He didn’t mind the long study hours. He also loved being the earliest to get to school. For my husband and I, we feel good to see Marcus’s love for learning. The award was a bonus.
- It is using our past as a point of reference, but recognizing our child’s unique life journey. When I was growing up, I enjoyed stories from my elders. They always shared how they did well in school and how they worked hard to have the lives they have today. I believe these stories provided me with great wisdom and guidance.
My husband and I do the same with our kids. We love sharing childhood stories. But when my kids do something different from our own childhood, we consciously use “new eyes” to first recognize that our kids are unique from us. For example, Marcus is a shy kid. That’s very different from me, because I’ve always been an extrovert. So, when situations arise that he prefers to stay quiet, I respect his need to have time to warm up. Today, at Grade 2, he bears more confidence and was even chosen to be class officer.
- It’s looking forward to challenges as teaching moments for you and your child. As I shared last week, Meagan was always called out for being very talkative. When she entered grade school, I remembered having a talk with her, asking if she’d like to try to be an honor student. She said yes. We discussed what it would take and if she was willing to make some changes. Her grades were not really an issue, but her conduct was. She started getting honor awards at Grade 1. By Grade 2, she managed to get a gold medal. Today, we both look back on these memories with much laughter and wisdom.
- It’s appreciating the journey. Positive results are just a bonus. I also want to emphasize that parental contentment doesn’t mean blinding ourselves to see a smooth ride when there are issues at hand, big or small. It’s not an escape to feel calm. When tougher situations arise, I always step back and process. I’d discuss my first reaction with my husband. When I talk to my kids, I’d already be in a cooler state of mind. I’d tackle the issue with them on our one-on-one days. I would ask their suggestion on how to handle the matter; I’d also give mine.
Then we’d agree on what to try. I believe this process has allowed us as a family to appreciate the journey more than the results. It has also allowed our kids to look forward to challenges, rather than tucking them away.
I guess parental contentment starts with the acknowledgement that as much as our kids bear our genes, they’re also unique from us. They may experience similar situations but these would contextually be very different due to their current environment. In the end, we can only take each “Parenting Day” a day at a time. We can bear contentment knowing we may not be perfect parents, our kids aren’t perfect kids, but we try our best and enjoy our “perfectly imperfect” journey as a family.