Do you like friends or love them? I don’t mean Facebook liking, I mean real life liking. Well actually, Facebook has it right. You like your friends; you don’t love your friend unless it’s a very special friend. You love your parents, the question is, do you also like your parents?
In some ways it is harder to like your parents than to love them. You might be in love with your mother, but that doesn’t mean you want to be exactly like her. There are many things she does that you don’t like and want to do differently in your own life. You still love her, you just don’t like her. You have to be an exceptional parent for your children to like you.
One way to tell that your kids like you is if they grow up and want to live their life exactly like yours. When they like everything about your life and want to replicate it, they choose a career like yours, a home like yours, a lifestyle like yours and friends like yours. They make it so obvious that anyone who knows you need only take one look at your children and know who their parents are.
Children feel a need to strike out on a different path from their parents, anything, but their father’s career, anything, but their mother’s pattern, anything, but their parent’s choices because their parents always wanted to choose for them. When children are little, we must make choices for them. They are no old enough to judge whether to wear a rain coat or a winter coat and like it or not their parents must choose for them. But as they grow older, they seek independence. The trick is to give them just the right amount. A little more than they need, but a little less than they want. It is one of the trickiest balances in life. How much to give and how much to withhold is a question no one can answer with certainty. We all do our best, but despite our best efforts we can be wrong as easily as we can be right because no single answer fits all children.
They key to prevent it from becoming a tug of war is to communicate respect for your child along with your love. Children don’t resent their parent’s love or their parents’ desire to make their choices. Children resent the lack of respect that they sense in their parents. When you say, “you can’t go out dressed like that” they hear “you are not mature enough to make your own choices and can’t be trusted with your own virtue.” They chafe under that message and no amount of denying it will convince them different. And with good reason because when you peel away the layers you will find that your child is absolutely right. Their truth antenna is very well tuned and where there is disrespect, they sense it.
They don’t stop loving you. On the contrary, as they mature, they love you more than when they were carefree and young. It is precisely because they love you that your disrespect stings so much. It is that very sense of “not good enough” that they set out to prove wrong, when they make independent choices. They have nothing against your career choice, but if they follow it, they aren’t making a statement about who they are, they are simply following you. Choosing a path different from yours is life affirming for them because subconsciously they feel they are validating their own existence as a mature minded and independent human being.