What Do We Want For Our Kids?

What Do We Want For Our Kids?

When I drill down to what I really want for my children, I want them to have deep connections to others, resilience, and a voice. By resilience, I mean the ability to keep going when things are difficult, practice when it’s hard. And by voice, I mean that they express who they are and what they believe. They are ok with being different or disagreeing with a common opinion.
 
The traits I want for my kids are the very things I struggle with the most. I know I learned so many lessons from my family that they didn’t explicitly teach. Just thousands of interactions absorbed over time.
 
Empathy is the trait that will help children form deep connections with others in their life according to John Medina, in Brain Rules for Baby. Can we learn to really understand what someone else is going through or feeling? I get stuck in my own head and wrapped up with my own problems, forgetting that other people are having their own experiences. I forget that what I do affects the people around me, especially my family.
 
I try to get my boys to “read the room”. “Is your brother enjoying you standing on his head? Look at his face. How does he feel? It’s not a fun game if not everyone is having a good time.” I hope this idea expands to other areas of consent in later years.
 
Resilience is also difficult for me. A growth mindset articulated by Carol Dweck says praising a child’s effort instead of calling them smart helps them learn perseverance. As someone who was raised to think I was smart (as if intelligence is innate), any time things got difficult, I stopped. I work to praise the effort my kids are making. I try to make praise them about their behavior. “You are being really kind to your brother right now”, rather than a blanket “You are kind.” A subtle but important distinction.
 
And voice? I go with the crowd so much. I learned to conform at home and learned the “rules” of the different groups I was in. With my kids, when I don’t like something, I try to use the phrase, “that’s not for me.” (Borrowed from Austin Kleon.) It’s the idea that just because I don’t like something, doesn’t strip it of value for someone else. Sometimes my older boy will like something his friends don’t. I try to let him know that “you like what you like.” I figure the idea can expand to bigger subjects in the future.
 
I feel like my kids are so much better than me at being people. Sure, they don’t have executive function and impulse control but, regardless, they are sweet, try hard, and love each other. And love me, despite my many faults.
 
They make me want to be better and do better.