You Matter in the Character Movement
A mother I know recently visited her college-aged daughter who had the good fortune of studying in London for a semester. On the flight over she prepared herself to go into “mom mode” in case her daughter wasn’t making good decisions and acting with good character. The mother had a mental list of all the things she was going to check up on (eating right, being safe when out at night, etc.), but at the last moment she decided to take more of a “wait and see” approach.
Instead of taking over, the mom let her daughter lead. She was soon impressed to see how confidently her daughter navigated her quasi-adult life. A few days into the visit the mom let go completely. The daughter had obviously absorbed all the life lessons the mom had tried to impart.
At the end of the trip there was a tearful goodbye.
The mother said, “You can do this.”
The daughter said, “I know.”
If only there were a way to know in your bones that our kids were going to turn out fine, that they would get an “A” in life. But one of the sad facts of parenting is that sometimes we don’t get the validation for all of our hard work and all of our worry until our children are already grown. In the meantime, we’re left with the feeling that all of our efforts to guide and teach are falling on deaf ears. Our present-day failures seem far more palpable and real than our eventual success.
When I talk to parents, I often find that they feel that outside forces are more powerful than they are. Popular culture, technology, the media, and so forth are just too big and strong to fight.
So, why bother?
Parents feel like they’ve lost their voice. They feel like, ultimately, they don’t matter.
Yet your voice as parent has a greater impact on kids than any other voice.
And while other studies may compound our fears that we’ve lost our influence, in my gut I know that a loving parent is far more influential than TV, video games and celebrities. Research on different topics from media use to body image to illicit drug and alcohol use shows that it’s the close relationships that have more influence (for good or bad) over kids’ lives than the remote associations of the larger culture or their peers.
Contrary to the news media or your peers or your parents stirring up fear within you, and making you doubt your abilities, the truth is deep inside we know what it takes to be good parents and that we as parents matter.
That’s what this blog is about. I’ll share experiences from my life, my family and friends, and my 30 years of working with young people. Sometimes I’ll throw out an idea or two for something to consider trying with your kids. Mostly this is a space for you to retreat, reflect and remember that you matter in your kids’ lives and in their character development!
P.S. I often hand out this “parent job description” at my speaking engagements. I hope it gives you a good laugh.