Especially our children. Parenting experts and amateurs alike make us feel like it is our duty as parents to mold our children into some ideal form. Like if we can just train them right, they will be right. People scare us into thinking that if we don't try to train our kids (to be polite, to take orders, to eat right, to sleep right, not to give up, to love reading, to watch the right amount of television, you name it), then we are doing them a great disservice. They will surely grow up to be mindless, selfish, friendless criminals who can't get along in the world.
But what if all the training that you do to your child doesn't change who he is at all? What if it only changes how he feels about who he is? And how he feels about you?
For example, suppose you have a very sensitive child, and you feel it is your job to "toughen him up" so he is better equipped to handle life's difficulties. You might try many different things to teach him lessons about being tough. You might say directly "stop being so sensitive." You might say "you are ok" or "it's not a big deal" when he gets upset. Or you might roll your eyes or laugh when he cries when you don't feel it is appropriate to cry.
Does all of this make your child tougher? I don't know. But it might make him feel like it is wrong to be sensitive. Like there is something wrong with him. And it is likely that at some point he will realize it is not safe to show he is sensitive around you. These two things might add up to him seeming less sensitive, to you, on the outside. But what if nothing has changed on the inside? What if he is just lying or pretending, to you to make you feel better, to get your approval? How does that affect your relationship with him?
What if this happens every time we try to change someone to better fit our vision of who they should be? Think about that the next time you try to train or "fix" your child or even your partner or anyone else. Maybe you are only training him how to act around you, rather than making any significant change within him. Maybe the lesson he learns is that he is not good enough. That it is not safe for him to be himself with you. That he needs to be different to please you. Think about whether or not that is the lesson you intend to teach.
|A beautiful arrangement by my daughter, Louise (4).|
Has someone ever tried to fix you? To make you be different than who you are? How did that go?