There’s a post on Motherlode, the NY Times’ parenting blog, that’s in response to the article “Raising Successful Children.” In it, the author talks about the ego in parenting. This paragraph sums up the post nicely:
“Sometimes, though, I begin to suspect that we do all this discussing and ruminating, as Ms. Levine put it, ‘out of our own needs rather than theirs.’ How egotistical is it to think that my parenting skills shape my children’s every action? They are not, as one commenter to this blog noted recently, Labradoodles. Some of what they do, and the choices they make, should be down to them,” (Motherlode, “The Ego in Raising Successful Children“).
The original article and the Ezzos tell us that we need to give our children the freedom to fail. Our children need to learn from their mistakes while they are young and while the stakes are low. So why is this so difficult for parents?
Ego. We created these little beings. We are responsible for how they turn out, right? This would certainly explain the competition in trying to make our kids better than everybody else’s. When our kids are the smartest or most talented in their class, is it a reflection on them or on us? I think many of us would say that we were instrumental in making that happen.
On the flip side, do we take responsibility when things go awry? When our teenager becomes rebellious and starts failing classes, do we take responsibility? Probably not. How convenient is that? We take credit when things go well, but then we get to shift the blame to the child–or more likely, his teacher–when things go wrong?
How about we completely take the ego out of parenting? Can we create these little beings, create a healthy environment (modeling good behavior), teach them when issues arise and leave it at that? At what point are our children responsible for their own actions?
“It’s our resistance to that statement [the quote above] that leaves us in exactly the parental position Ms. Levine laments: afraid to see our children fail. That’s perhaps the ultimate parenting catch: someone out there will put your child’s every failure, whether it’s rudeness as a preschooler to failing algebra in high school, on you. You, in fact, will put any and all such failures exactly there: did you not teach them any better?
And yet we still have to let them fail. We have to let ourselves fail, or appear to fail, in order to have even a shot at doing this parenting job right. A blow to the ego? Indeed. But didn’t we agree that this isn’t supposed to be about us?” (Motherlode, “The Ego in Raising Successful Children“).
If we can resist the temptation to “overparent,” we can more easily take the ego out of parenting and hold our children accountable for the choices they make–whether they turn out well or not.