One of the fundamental roles of a parent is to lead their children, guiding and influencing their path.
We do this in a variety of ways – telling (the ‘do as I say’ mentality), outsourcing (our choice of schools and extracurricular activities reflects this); stimulating (the toys, books, games we allow them to engage in); and in showing (role-modelling what we would like to see from them)
It is this final method of leading that I would like to explore here because it is the one most often neglected or falsely developed. It is also the most difficult – because it doesn’t only involve our children, but mainly has to do with ourselves. Inherent in the act of role-modelling are two things: an awareness – and choice – of what you would like your children to be; an embodying of this within yourself (which in itself requires deep commitment to this ideal).
An example of what I mean… The first element of role-modelling - awareness of what we would like our children to be like - should be around a character trait that we feel will set them up well in life and make a difference to the way they operate in their world. It could be something like compassionate, courageous, committed, honest, hardworking, curious, loyalty, generosity, responsibility….
What these desires to see in our children actually end up being if we are truthful, are our own values – those things that are important to us above everything else. This is important to remember. Ultimately our children are their own people and so these values of ours which we are wanting to see in our children can only ever be gifts we offer them, which will assist them in their own journey.
The second element of leading our children involves the embodiment of these characteristics which is the act of being them ourselves. Mahatma Ghandi’s powerful quote resonates this: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (emphasis mine).
Both of these elements require something from us as parents more than anything from our children – they require us to be conscious and aware of ourselves, of what is true for us and of what has value and meaning for us. And they require us to do the hard work of trying to be better and more integrous human beings who attempt to practise these characteristics within ourselves. More than anything a child is ever exposed to, it is the behaviour of a parent or caregiver that illustrates to them what is important and how they should try to be. And yet we are so often unconscious to what truly matters to us and instead pursue that which external influences, the systems in which we operate, tell us are important and valuable.
Truly, the best way to lead our children is to share the gift of our own values and the importance of being true to these. This will give our children the freedom to seek what is important to them and the awareness of making conscious decisions without being swayed by others. By being true to ourselves, working on reflecting what we truly and deeply believe and honour, we will express ourselves to our children in and authentic and purposeful way – which will give them the encouragement to do the same.
Parenting with purpose and awareness of ourselves will allow us to offer a healthy, whole, compassionate role-model to our children. We will lead them to be the best of themselves, as we seek to be the best of ourselves.
Contact me to find out more about the Parenting on Purpose workshops:
On a personal note...
I am curious, creative, determined, committed and (a bit too much of) a perfectionist.