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Last Updated on February 27, 2018

Raising a Successful Child Is a Curse for Every Parent

Raising a Successful Child Is a Curse for Every Parent

It’s tough being a parent. Parents do their best to make sure the kids live healthy and happy lives. Despite the good intentions, sometimes parents miss the mark. One of the most common mistakes that parents make is that they hang their hopes for success on the kids without realizing it.

The well-known movie Little Miss Sunshine, is an example of this. The movie is built around a family’s journey to take their little girl Olive to a pageant. The family’s happiness seems to hinge upon Olive’s ability to perform in this pageant. That’s a lot of pressure for a seven-year old to bear. While Olive marches to the beat of her own drum, many of the other contestants’ parents are hyper-aggressive. They’ve set a standard that’s nearly impossible for a child to uphold.

    These kids’ happiness isn’t coming from a joy of competing. In many cases, though, their parents’ happiness comes from the success of their children. It’s wonderful to want our kids to be the best at whatever they do, but we must ensure that they’re doing these things for the right reasons.

    For the best of the kids?

      I don’t know a parent who doesn’t want their kid to have more opportunities and have a better quality of life than they had. Parents sign their kids up for classes, put together special outings, and demand that they have the best education. Parents want their kids to grow up to be the smartest, most artistic, most athletic, most compassionate adult that they can be.

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      When parents get into the mindset of raising “winners”, they run into trouble. Where there are winners there are also “losers.” It’s one thing for a child to feel competitive, but when parents become competitive, it can take the fun out of any activity.

      For example, if someone says that kid A plays the piano more beautifully than kid B, kid B’s parents might decide that he needs to practice more. Kid B attends more intensive piano lessons for longer hours so that he can improve. Just to assure that his musical superiority is without question, kid B’s parents also get him violin lessons.

      When kid A’s parents host the coolest birthday party of the season, kid B’s parent’s try to outdo them. They add more entertainment and invite more children so that kid B can have the most friends. In reality, kids A and B probably don’t care about fancy parties. This is about their parents.

      The unspoken war between parents

        Parents can be cruel to one another. When a parent doesn’t push their children to be involved in many activities, other parents may judge them. They may say things like, “Why aren’t they nurturing their kid’s interests by getting them into more activities?” or “Why are their kids so quiet? It’s like they don’t know how to interact with others because they never do anything.”

        The people who are saying those judgmental things may be genuinely worried, but the criticism may also highlight their insecurities about parenting. In response to this judgement, parents start to care too much about what others think of their children. They may feel that how people view their kids is a reflection on them.

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        The self-conscious parent judges themselves based on what people say about their kids. “She said my daughter lacks social skills. Is that my fault? Is it because I keep to myself so much?” We forget sometimes that kids have personalities all their own.

        The self-consciousness and judgement have nothing to do with kids’ happiness. This is only about parents feeling secure. It seems like the better a kid does, the more parents feel like they are doing the right things as parents. They place their value and self-worth as adults on the shoulders of their children.

        An endless chase to get ahead

          Growing up is hard enough without added pressure. Being a parent is already stressful without having impossible standards. Kids and parents suffer when they are locked into unrealistic expectations.

          Children are extremely sensitive and intuitive. They pick up on everything their parents do, and they genuinely want approval. If they place more value on pleasing their parents than on doing what they love, they’ll never be happy.

          When kids are forced to focus on their parents’ expecations, they don’t get the chance to think for themselves. It feels good to get attention and recognition when you are the best at something. Kids who can’t meet the standard will always feel unfulfilled and unhappy.

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          Parents who only take pride in their kids for their victories—whether those are sports trophies, good grades, or other awards—are missing out on a huge opportunity. Instead of teaching a child not to be afraid of failure, they show kids that their worth is outside of themselves. Their self esteem is built off external validation.

          Of course this is bad for the kids, but think about what it does to the parents. They run themselves ragged trying to make sure that their kids are always ahead of others. Children miss out on a childhood, but parents also don’t get to experience the joys of raising a child.

          Set an example by self-focusing

          Parents are often taught to sacrifice everything to ensure that their kids have the best opportunities. There’s nothing wrong with making sacrifices, but parents must remember that they have an identity outside of their children.

          Parents who are hyper-focused on their child’s success are unintentionally modeling a need for external validation. Instead of showing kids how important it is to be yourself, they make kids’ self esteem dependent on what other people think.

          Nobody intends to teach a bad lesson. Luckily, kids can bounce back from this sort of pressure if parents recognize that they are behaving this way. Parents can teach kids what true happiness looks like by making time to do the things that they want to do. Model balance and stability for kids, and you’ll be amazed at the good that can come from it.

          Let them fall, and let yourself fall

          When parents relax, they learn to take failures in stride. They can take some of the pressure off themselves and their kids.

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          We’re going to mess up and fail sometimes. We can’t learn unless we make mistakes. How great is it that kids can make mistakes in the safe environment of your home? They’ll be better at handling failure in adulthood if they haven’t spent their whole childhood being the best at everything. When children make mistakes, everyone learns too. Their mistakes can make you a better parent. You may have to help them problem-solve or learn a new skill to deal with the problem.

          For parents who’ve been living through their kids’ successes, changing this pattern can come as a real blow to the ego. Kids have to learn how to pick themselves up after falling down, and they have to learn that they won’t always be the best at everything.

          You might have been afraid to let them fail because you didn’t want them to be disappointed, but now you can teach them about resiliency. You can show them that they still have value–even if they fail. That inner strength will carry them through any challenges that life brings to them. It will teach them to pursue the things that they want rather than do what someone else wants them to do.

          You have the power to shape your child’s self-esteem and self-worth. As Mr. Rogers says,

          There’s no person in the whole world like you; and I like you just the way you are.

          The best thing that you can do for kids is to nurture their interests without losing sight of your own. Understand that they will make mistakes, and be there for them. Teach them what healthy competition looks like, but show them that they are more than the sum of external successes and failures.

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          Anna Chui

          Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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          Published on September 18, 2018

          Coparenting 101: 17 Helpful Strategies for Divorced Parents

          Coparenting 101: 17 Helpful Strategies for Divorced Parents

          When people separate or divorce, one of their biggest challenges is coparenting their children together. As a Marriage and Family Therapist in Chicago, I often see divorced parents struggle with how to raise their children together.

          One parent has a certain set of rules, and the other does it completely differently. It can be a real challenge to navigate this part of the divorce process.

          Yet over the years, I have seen couples successfully raise their children together after a divorce. It takes a little attention and focus, but there are number of key strategies that these divorced couples employ to make coparenting much easier.

          1. Communicate clearly.

          When couples who are able to communicate coparenting items easily and without much emotion, they get a lot of the work of parenting done quickly. Yet when their discussions about parenting items are filled with emotion, then it muddies the waters.

          If you find yourself fighting with your ex about all sorts of coparenting issues, you might want to set up a method of communication which reduces the emotion.

          Perhaps a dedicated email thread that only has parenting items might keep the channels of communication more clean.

          2. Clarify rules.

          Many families we see here at our practice in Chicago have different rules at different houses for their children. This can certainly work, but the rules need to be clearly defined by the parents.

          Where children struggle is when they are unclear about what the rules of each house are, and then try to manipulate the rules to get their way.

          Clear communication of what the expectations are at each house can go a long way towards creating balance and stability.

          3. Get out of the past.

          It is important to be sure that any lingering items from your marriage stay as much in the past as possible.

          Of course there will by dynamics from the marital relationship that persist in the coparenting relationship, but couples benefit by bringing their relationship out of the past and trying to create new ways of interacting around parenting items.

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          4. Don’t triangulate.

          One of the more difficult dynamics that we see in Family Therapy is when couples triangulate their children.

          Triangulation is when whatever is unresolved between the parents gets transmitted through their interactions with the children.

          In other words, the parents hostility and tension gets absorbed by the children and the children start acting it out. It can be very confusing when this happens, and Family Therapy can significantly help when this dynamic occurs.

          5. Bless and release.

          One thing that troubles a lot of people after a break up or divorce is that they continually hold on to old grudges or complaints.

          In order to coparent more effectively, it can be helpful to bless and release your ex. This mean wishing them well and letting go of old hurts.

          Can you hope for our ex that they have all good things and find the life and love that they are looking for? This sort of neutrality can go a long way with coparenting from a more balanced place.

          6. Practice mindful parenting.

          Many experts will tell parents to try to stay more calm than their child. If you are anxious, stressed and angry, then your child may become those things too.

          Coparenting with an ex adds another layer of difficulty and potentially upsetting emotions. It is important to practice being mindful of your anxiety, stress and anger levels when parenting, and also when interacting with your coparent.

          Finding ways to stay relaxed and put things in perspective can help.

          7. Develop a support network.

          Having a good team of trusted people in your corner can help to make sure you don’t feel alone in the process of coparenting. Talking with other parents who are divorced or separated might help you feel less alone in the process.

          Additionally, having a trusted counselor or therapist in your corner who can help you look at your blind spots, can make a big difference.

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          8. Practice presence.

          Staying in the moment when parenting can be a useful thing whether you are coparenting, doing it alone, or alongside your partner.

          Our minds can race all over the place when we are managing a lot of things in our family life. Yet taking time to stay in the moment and be present with your child will help calm and stabilize the situation.

          If you are worried about future events, or stressed about what happened before, it takes you out of the present, which can be full of opportunities for meaningful experiences with your child.

          9. Practice “I” statements.

          A lot of couples will get in trouble by blaming their ex in front of their child. It can be difficult for them not to criticize their ex, or say something disparaging. Yet this can have a negative impact on the child.

          Instead of pointing the finger, it helps to practice “I” statements. Talk about your frustration and how you get overwhelmed by difficult situations rather than commenting on how your ex made mistakes or is selfish.

          Talking about your own experience helps you own your own power in the situation.

          10. Learn to compromise.

          If coparents are constantly arguing about their schedules, money, or what the rules are, then it can cause a very hostile and chaotic environment for the children.

          Yet couples who learn to work together and compromise on the endless, daily family items that need to be negotiated, end up creating a more stable and calm environment for their children.

          Even if you insist that you should have the children on a particular holiday because your ex had them the previous year, being willing to compromise and make alternate arrangements can pay off in the long run.

          11. Give a little.

          Coparents who are generous with one another, even if they are still upset about their breakup, help create an environment of wellbeing in their family.

          If your coparent asks for a random extra weekend with the children, and you know that it is your turn that weekend, being generous and giving a little can go a long way towards generating good will.

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          Withholding and counting each fairness and unfairness creates a less generous and more stingy family environment.

          Of course you don’t want to compromise yourself and give over too much, but keeping on the lookout for when you can give just a bit more, can help the wellbeing of everyone involved.

          12. Talk with your children.

          Parents who worry about the potentially negative influence that their ex will have on their children do well by talking more with their kids.

          If you are worried about what your ex might say to your child, it helps to have a good, open line of communication with the child such that you can better understand how they see the world.

          It helps if they can talk with you about their confusion or any conflicting messages that they hear from their other parent.

          13. Leverage your relationship.

          Your child is hard wired to want to connect with you. Parents do well to know that the greatest influence that they have on their child is their relationship with them.

          Your children are attached to you, and even if they act as if they want nothing to do with you, they are still wired for your approval and care.

          Finding ways to leverage the inherent attachment can help create the sort of life that you’d like for your child.

          14. Attract, don’t pursue.

          Don’t overly pursue a connection with your child, but instead attract their interest to connect with you. When parents are too eager to chase a child who is distancing, then the child will often distance more.

          Building on the inherent attachment that your child has with you, try to find ways to create harmonious and connected moments rather than asking them tons of questions and trying desperately to create closeness.

          15. Open up.

          Share more with your child about what you love, and what you are passionate about. Children who hear more about what parents care about tend to follow their own passions.

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          Think about how many famous athletes or musicians children are also athletes or musicians. Children tend to follow the lead of their role models, and if you share what you love, then might emulate that pursuit themselves.

          This can go a long way towards creating a lasting bond that can withstand any tension in a coparenting relationship.

          16. Embrace change.

          A lot of coparents have hidden regrets or live in the past. They wish their family situation could be different, but don’t know how to make it better.

          Embracing change can help us move out of past hurts and regrets and find new ways to create the sort of changes we are looking for.

          Perhaps you can find new ways to interact with your ex that might foster new family dynamics.

          17. Make room for new possibilities.

          A lot of divorced or separated couples that I work with tend to become hopeless about anything new happening in the family dynamic. They see patterns of interaction repeat themselves over and over, and they anticipate it will continue this way forever.

          Yet if there is one thing we can count on is that things will eventually change. Making room in your mind for new possibilities can alleviate some of the hopelessness that sometimes comes with difficult coparenting situations.

          Yes you are divorced, but It is indeed possible to be good coparents. Communication and patience go hand in hand if you want to raise happy and healthy kids as a divorced parent.

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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