Flaw led parenting is very real. It is parenting lead by finding the “flaws” in your child and trying to fix them. And I have decided to stop doing it and advocating against it. I am very aware of my “flaws”, the ones in my character and the ones in my body, because the people around me and who love me the most have pointed them out to me over the course of my lifetime, repeatedly.
I used to believe that a parent’s role in life was to make their children better, in other words, fix them. Mold them into better versions of themselves, and that is what most people would call positive parenting. My six year old is blissfully unaware of her strangeness in this world. She thinks it is completely normal to wear goggles all day long for weeks just because she wants to (we even went grocery shopping once with her wearing them). She wanted to wear glasses so she asked for a fake pair of glasses and has been wearing them religiously for weeks. She lives in her own little bubble. She chews her fingernails when she is bored, nervous or tired. She knows how to manipulate us when she wants something. She is overwhelmed with sadness when bad things happen to her or to the people around her. She still refuses to go to sleep totally alone in her room. But on the other hand, she has other amazing qualities like boundless curiosity and amazing compassion. Things I did not teach her, perhaps she learned them from just copying some people around her or they are qualities she was born with. It is irrelevant.
She had a swimming lesson this morning and I was watching a little boy getting our of the water and practicing dives. The swim coaches are amazing and patient, exactly what little children need and thrive on. Suddenly the little boy’s mom (no older than 10) comes out of no where and start yelling at him for not standing correctly and tells him to improve his posture. She stood there for a couple of minutes giving him the “look”, I am sure all of you know it. As children we were all on the receiving end sometime or another and as parents we have delivered it. It says, you are unworthy, you are wrong. The little boy’s face had a totally different “look”, a look we all know too. A look of fear, shame, bewilderment, stress and a boatload of negative emotions. I have seen the look on my daughter’s face when I yelled before, but never had it been so clear to me how damaging it is. I also know the look, from my own face, when others put me down so aggressively. Ten minutes later a much younger little boy, around five, was crying his eyes out because he didn’t want to get into the pool, the mother gave him a hug, told him to take a deep breath and decide if he wanted to swim today. The coach talked to him for a couple of minutes and personally took him into the pool in the safety of her hug and gave him a few moments of one on one attention. The little boy suddenly took the water like a little fish.
I am not mom-shaming. On the contrary, I know we all stumble, mess up and make mistakes occasionally and the rest of the time we are caring, responsible and kind parents. Perhaps all we need is a little more compassion and empathy, towards ourselves and our children. There is no point in raising a miserable prodigy. A happy, balanced and well adjusted child that is kind and caring towards herself and the world is a treasure, no matter what she grows up to be. We are not kind to ourselves because we were never taught, we never saw our parents doing it. We mainly saw disappointment, anger or resentment.
Resentment is another huge issue. How many of us have heard the words “after all I have done for you” and wished the person saying them hadn’t done anything for you. Your children do not ask you to push yourself so hard that you end up angry at them, but they do ask to play with you, they ask to go to the park and ride a bike, they ask to spend time having fun, they ask for your help building living room forts. And when you give them what they ask for and what they really need, they are almost always grateful.
They are especially grateful when they see you practicing gratitude. When they hear you saying “thank you” to others sincerely. Believe me, they can tell the difference. Children will model themselves like their parents. Treat them with true kindness and empathy and they will mirror that and it will become part of their character. Use emotional blackmail on them, and they will throw it right back in your face.
I will no longer try to “fix” the flaws in my daughter, but I will be there for her to help her out. To explain things and to help her grow whichever way she chooses. She might be small and inexperienced, but that does not mean she is stupid or that she needs to be told who to be. It just means she needs support and help figuring herself and the world out. She needs a mother, a shoulder to cry on, a comrade, a conspirator, a partner in crime, a pretend fairy in pretend fairy wings, someone to carry her piggy back around the house, someone who trusts her enough to learn how to handle the sharp knives so she can make everyone lemonade.
Perhaps, my reasons for doing this are entirely selfish, and there is nothing wrong with putting yourself first. I know first hand what trying to fix your flaws does to a person. It doesn’t work, it just magnifies them. The best about parenting is that it is an opportunity to parent yourself all over again in the process of parenting a child. Make the most of it.