Category Archives: Relationships Adult Child/Parent

Parent Your Child, Not Yourself

Many of you aren’t parenting in the best interest of your child.  Instead, you’re parenting to satisfy your own needs.

I get too many calls on the topic of having low self-esteem.  And that’s probably because there are a lot of parents who have no concept of how to help their kids develop a positive attitude about people and life.  You see, a lot of parenting comes from the “hurty” places: “I didn’t have a lot of freedom, so I’m going to give my kid total freedom,” or “I didn’t have a lot of freedom, so I’m not giving my kid any freedom.”  Instead of thinking about the needs of the child and what’s really healthy, parents make it all about what I experienced.  They think things like, “He looks a lot like my ex-husband, so I can’t stand him.”  

Parents conjure up all kinds of things from ugly places.  They lament to themselves, “My kid isn’t perfect, my kid has some kind of handicap or problem, my kid’s not pretty, my kid’s not athletic; my kid’s not this my kid’s not that.”  But at the root of all their complaining is just their narcissism not being fed. 

The whole “I look good through my children doing something” idea is the same mentality that creates groupies.  Girls go hump stars and sports figures and they think they’ve made themselves into something.  That’s all that’s about.  I had a wonderful conversation a while ago with a young woman who called with, again, a self-esteem question.  I asked her, “Well, how have you earned it?”  Her only comeback was, “I know how to have fun.”  Well, I’m sorry.  We don’t respect ourselves because we know how to have fun.  Don’t misunderstand me, I think it’s healthy to know how to have fun, but that’s not how you respect yourself.

So, a lot of mistakes parents make with their kids come from them still being mucked up by their own pain.  That’s why I think it is really important to have six months of premarital counseling before people decide to marry because they learn a lot about themselves, the other person, their needs, their fears, their desires, and their problems, and they learn how to resolve things, move forward, and mature.  It’s more likely that the marriage will work.

Considering this further, I thought maybe you could apply this rule to having a baby.  Maybe people should go into counseling for six months before they have a baby, or if they get pregnant, perhaps that’s when the therapy starts.  In pre-baby therapy, you can talk about what happened in your childhood, what feelings you have about your husband or wife with respect to having a kid, and put everything on the table.  It’s amazing how much better you both can deal with things once the air is cleared. 

And that’s why I’m so blunt on my satellite radio program: I’m trying to role model for all of you how to put even the ugly stuff on the table.  Because once we take a clear look at it, it has less power over us.   What you try to suppress is what has power over you.   I’d like you to be the master, not the slave to your history and emotions.

So, this is why I recommend counseling when you’re thinking about getting married, and when you’re considering having a baby.  A lot of stuff is never discussed when you’re dating.  I mean who discusses diapers when they’re dating?