Your kids are not your identity summarizes #4 on my list of 8 Things Parents Can Do Now To Shape The Teen Years Ahead. In that post I wrote:
Seek to understand and love them for who they are rather than conform them to who you want them to be. Sometimes when our children have different personalities or interests than ours we try to push upon them the way we do things, or our hobbies. Without meaning to this can make them feel shame for not measuring up to your standard or for not being more like their sibling. If they do have similar interests, do not make them feel like they are in competition to your previous successes. Their performance is not why you love them, but if they grow up thinking it is, the idol of performance and perfection can drive them to despair as teenagers.”
One of my children does not care one bit about making weekend plans. It honestly doesn’t cross his mind. It’s not that he’s anti-social; he seems to be friends with all his teammates- just not “weekend friends.” For a long time this really bothered me. I thought something was wrong and he was missing out. But as my husband pointed out, if this is how he is wired, we needed to be careful not to heap shame on him just because he is different than how we are wired.
This is when I realized the problem is not him, but me. If I’m honest the reason his lack of a social life bothered me was because of how I thought other people would view him… and me. Not in the popular crowd, out being seen- worthless. How messed up is that! I was projecting on him my own false gods.
We do this with our kids because we see them as an extenstion of us; our mini-me’s. So easily their accomplishments, failures, successes, challenges, social life, sports, and obedience (as we discussed in the last post) can become our identity. But how well they perform, what they do and who their friends with is not their true identity and should certainly not be ours.
If it is, we need to ask oursevles some probing questions: Are we living vicariously through them? Are we adding pressure for them to be a certain way? Are we making them feel like they don’t measure up (to us)? Do we think the way we do things is the only way/right way? Are we imposing on them our own idols?
I don’t think it’s a great jump then to see what leads us to often becoming “helicopter” parents. But as we talked about in the first post of this series, we need to get to the root of the why we hover over them, try to control and to ensure their success and status. When we do we will likely find our own insecurities and sin mixed in with well-meaning intentions.
It is important we see though that much of the “help” we think we are offering to our kids is actually harming them. Studies show the following repercussions of helicopter parenting on kids:
- Lack of confidenece/need for affirmation
- Inability to cope with adversity
- Increased anxiety/depression/fear of failure and disappointing others
- Undeveloped life skills/lack of independence
Our kids are not our identity. Let’s give them the freedom to fail without worrying what other people might think about them, or us. Let’s not revolve our worlds around them to the point they act as if life is all about them. Let’s not push them to seek their identity in performance, based off what they perceive we value and praise. Let’s point our kids to their true worth found only in Christ as we look to him for our identity as well.