by T.M. Todrovich
Throughout the years I have had teenaged children, I have heard too often that one or both of a child’s parents thought they weren’t good enough. Statements such as, “You will never amount to anything”, “You can’t make it in the military”, “Why are you even thinking about college? You can’t do it?” and so many other derogatory comments have been shared with me by young adults.
As a parent, I know teens tend to exaggerate and do not understand where their parents are coming from, and when talking with teens, I do my best to keep this in mind; however, many times the pain on the teen’s face reveal the deep, dark, sad truth. Some of the young adults have risen above these demeaning remarks and set out to prove their parents wrong, but many rehash the statements over and over, like an old tape repeating constantly.
When we discourage our children, tell them they are not good enough, or even if our action and facial expressions show it when our words are more kind, we are setting our child up for failure. We are destroying their self-confidence, their self-esteem, and their desire to better themselves. This is a tragedy.
I know there are times my kids think of something and I am not entirely sure they can accomplish their dreams. Occasionally their dream is so distant and far from their abilities I am certain it is not something they will be able to do. I look back at these dreams and although I do not recall, I’m sure I have discouraged them in one way or another. We all make mistakes, say the wrong thing, and do things we wish we could change, and usually this is done with the excuse we are only trying to help our child.
Is this the best course of action? Is it wise to tell our child, “Um, sweetie, you have poor eyesight and will never be a pilot,” or “Dear, you are clumsy and will never be able to be a cheerleader?” Yes, we do it because we don’t want our child to try and fail. Yes, we do it with the best intentions. But is it right?
For some parents, their intentions are not honorable. They don’t believe their child can do anything and discourage them from trying. One young friend of my family’s wants to join the armed services. When he mentions it to his parents, he is blatantly told he isn’t smart enough and is too lazy. I know this young adult well, and that is far from the truth. For this young man, he sees no future because his parents tell him repeatedly he isn’t good enough.
How do we change this thinking? How do we encourage a child who has been told they can’t achieve their dreams that they should try and even if they fail, they have something to be proud of? Is it possible?
For parents like our friend’s, they have to change their thinking and look at their son with new, less judging eyes and see the good, hardworking, determined man inside. For other parents who have good intentions, we must think before we speak, something we try to teach our children to do. We must check our reactions, our facial expressions, and do some deep soul-searching. We must find out why we feel the way we do.
If we are afraid our child will fail, we must realize that our child is going to fail at something. We all do. Failing is necessary for finding our strengths, our weakness, our dreams, and what is worth fighting for. Failing is an essential ingredient in learning how to succeed. If and when our child fails, instead of having a smug, “I told you so” attitude, we must teach our child the positive outcome of failing, and we must express our pride in the fact they tried.
Our job as parents is to lead our children into an independent life, a life where they find who they are, what they are meant to do, and what they love. By lovingly discussing the pros and cons of a dream and allowing our child to make his or her own decision, we are promoting independence, confidence, and growth.
The next time my youngest child says he wants to be a professional gamer, I refuse to point out that he is mediocre at games, that I do not allow him the time to play for hours and hours on end, and that he does not have the best gaming set up. Instead, I will encourage him to keep dreaming, encourage him to read everything he can find on gaming (I am a firm believer reading, even if only articles on gaming, is essential), and let him learn all he can. Perhaps he will one day prove me wrong and be a millionaire gamer, or perhaps he will realize he isn’t quite cut out for professional gaming and it should be a hobby. When he reaches adulthood, the decision is his, not mine. I will take comfort in knowing I supported him to the best of my abilities. If he fails, I will be there with open arms. If he succeeds, I will be there cheering him on. And whatever happens, he will know he always had my support.