Parents often seek their validation from the wrong source-their children. The pure unconditional love of an infant is so intoxicating that many parents want to experience that transcendental glow for as long as possible. Who wouldn’t want to be adored without any discernment or judgement? The tricky part is that in order to be a truly loving and effective parent one needs to learn to give up the idealization from their child in favor of setting boundaries, expectations, and healthy limits.
The love that can develop when a parent does not try to be mirrored by their child or best friend to their child, but instead be the parent the child needs, is a love that is built on respect, consistency, and inner wholeness.
All of us need to constantly work on this maturity because inside each of us is a child that just wants that unconditional love we may have once experienced in our parent’s eyes and did feel from the purity of our newborn’s love.
A child has a million chances to make friends but it is exceptional to have a sturdy, loving, and reliable parent.
What does it take to give up parental narcissism for parental maturity?
It requires us to recognize first and foremost that our child is not the right place to look for our adult emotional needs to be met. If we have a partner we need to work diligently on that relationship so that it is a source of meaningful connection and legitimate feedback. If we do not have a partner we need to invest in a robust network of friends.
Adults need to be the people we turn to help us get through the ups and downs of life. Adults are the people we need to rely on to give us accurate appraisals of our appeal and competence.
Children need us to be clear and not back down when we have set standards. We need to be the solid posts they can lean on or push against to know their own capacities and inner strengths. When children know where the limits are and can depend on them then they feel more relaxed and trusting. When we feel confident that we can adhere to our values and withstand the inevitable protestations of our children then we can be calm and secure in our parenting and our mature love of our children.
If this all sounds a little too dry or somber let me reassure you that children who are parented by mature adults are raised in some of the most raucous and happy households I have ever seen. Once the proper walls and foundations have been set and reinforced patiently and consistently- both parents and children find an incredible freedom and joy within those healthy boundaries. Genuine playfulness and affection are often an outgrowth of mutual respect and emotional solidity.
After all it is much harder to dance on a buckling and splintery floor. It is never too late for a parent to grow up and become the mature beacon your child needs and deserves.
Take the below quiz and see how you are doing in cultivating mature parenting (for parents of 8 year olds and up)
Score 1 – 5 (1 – Never, 2 – Rarely, 3 – Sometimes, 4 – Often, 5 – Always)
1- I give into my child’s demands to stay up later than they should
2- I let my child watch too much TV
3- I can’t stand it when my child is crying so I do everything I can to make it better
4- I allow my child to use bad language
5- I tell my child to be “good”
6- I allow my child to interrupt me and other adults
7- I am too tired to follow through on consequences I set for my child’s misbehaving
8- I would rather get along with my child than press an issue
9- I make all the meals for my child and clean up after them
10- I let my child monopolize the conversation and not really know anything about me
11- I let my child indulge in unhealthy comfort foods or substances to soothe their unhappiness
Scores of 30 and above indicate you have some work to do to become a mature parent instead of a popular one.
~Dr. Jennifer Freed, PhD, child behavioral expert, co-founder of AHA! (Attitude.Harmony.Achievement.) http://ahasb.org