As moms we can all relate to wanting what’s best for our children. We want them to go to the best schools, have the best opportunities in life and to be high achievers. But sometimes our wanting ‘the best’, results in us having behaviors that make us question if we are really helping our children or harming them.
I once received a question from a concerned mom who believed she might be too competitive when it comes to her kids. Her question goes:
“My kids had a STEM competition related to lego robotics and I was really into it. The kids felt prepared to present but I feel like I was being the competitive, crazy mom. During the demonstration, the coach even came up to me to tell me to back up. I was very nervous about the ratings. I was nervous about the results. I was hoping my kids would win rather than just letting them enjoy the moment.
My child said to me later, “Mama, I know you're proud and we had a very good day today. But would you have still been this proud if I had not gotten that award?”
Those words struck me and I didn't know what to say. I thought to myself, am I becoming that competitive, crazy parent who wants their child to have only high achievements? Is this normal?”
So, first of all, let's break this down a little bit.
Of course, as parents we want our children to succeed and we want them to reach their full potential. In order to gauge how healthy our drive for them to succeed is, we have to ask ourselves some questions, such as:
I’m not here to give you your answers because I believe we intuitively know deep down what the answers are for ourselves. So once we are able to honestly answer those questions, we will understand what’s motivating our behavior and it will help us to make the right decisions.
Another point to remember is that we are only responsible for our intentions and our efforts. We’re not responsible for the outcome.
So in the case of our children, the outcome we want would be for them to ‘win’. But you can plan and you can prepare all you want, the way things play out is simply not in our hands. At the end of the day, Allah controls the outcome.
We’ve been trained by our families and society to focus on goals and be outcome-driven. But the focus should be on our intentions and our efforts and the direction of where we're going rather than a specific outcome. I know it's very counterintuitive to what we've been taught. However, by doing that, we’re not attaching our value or worth to mere achievements.
So, let me rephrase that in the context of our kids - we need to focus on our child’s intentions and efforts and the direction in which they are headed, rather than a specific outcome. When you do that, you’re not attaching your child’s worth or value to their achievements.
Sometimes we fear that if we praise our children when they don’t win, then they will just become lazy and not aim to do better.
That is so far from the truth.
We need to acknowledge our children and help them to feel confident within their ability to try. Underneath, kids of all ages want to please and be validated by their parents. When we acknowledge their effort, they are resilient enough to keep trying, because then they are not tying your happiness to their win or grade.
It is their natural state to have that inner resilience.
All children are born on the fitrah. That means that they have an innate tendency of wanting to do their best. By supporting them in that, then along the journey they will reach their potential and they will have those achievements.
It just goes with the territory.
It's not just about telling our children that we are proud of them no matter what. Our actions, energy, and the way we behave speak louder than anything we say.
We have to truly believe deep down that it is better that our children do their best and enjoy their experiences than to get that trophy to hang on the wall. If we think deep down that it is not OK if they don’t win, that belief will get transmitted through your energy.
If you’re struggling with that, ask yourself, ‘Is the win for my ego or their benefit?
If the effort and the experience are the really important aspects for our children, then we’d have no reason to be nervous or upset about the outcome. And regardless of the results, we would truly be proud of their effort.
So the next time you start thinking, ‘My kid is not doing what every other kid is doing and he is not achieving on the same level as so and so’, just remember that every child is uniquely different. Trust yourself that you know what is right for your child even if you're not following along with the herd.
We need to nurture our children in connection so they feel secure and know we are looking out for their best interest and not just putting the pressure on to serve our own egos.
We need to be compassionate to our children and remember that they need us as their advocates and guides. They need us to love them unconditionally and see them as more than simply a sum of their achievements.