There’s a popular saying, with children the days feel like years and the years like days. They say the days are long and the years short. The tantrum in the store when they’re two is endless and overwhelming and then you blink, and they are a teenager you can no longer lift and cuddle, and now you’re sobbing in the bathroom. Parenting is a long game where you’re learning on the job. Mistakes will be made and there will be regrets. Here are some things parents wish they’d said to their children when they were younger.
I value your opinion
One parent regrets not asking his child’s opinion noting that it would have made a huge difference in their relationship if he’d done it. There’s an unspoken understanding that children are there to be seen not heard while adults are the fountain of knowledge that guides how we relate with children. This unspoken belief ends up preventing parents from getting to know their children and leaves children feeling invisible to them.
Go ahead. Just be careful.
So much of parenting is underscored by worry and fear with good reason. The world is a scary place and you could get hurt at every turn. This is much worse with children who are curious and boisterous with an almost non-existent sense of danger and self-preservation. Some parents often find themselves saying no, no, no. In hindsight, danger wasn’t always lurking at every corner, and letting children explore doesn’t always end in tears. All it does often is transfer the parent’s excess fear to the child. Once in a while, there’s value in evaluating the situation, stopping yourself in the middle of saying no and instead going with, “Go ahead, just be careful.”
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It’s okay to be different
One of the big pressures of childhood is fitting in, especially with the popular kids. One parent regrets not telling their child often enough that it’s okay to be yourself, to be different, to stand out. With the benefit of hindsight, he can face the fact that the reason he didn’t hack on about it was because he was just as worried about being an uncool parent as they were about being uncool kids.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
We often imagine everything we do has to be a success, children see this and become equally obsessed about doing everything right. One area we see this for children is grades. We pressure our children and they pressure themselves to always perform at 100%. A bad grade or an incomplete project is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Regret goes both ways
People are often afraid to do something because they will regret it and children often pick up on this. Regret goes both ways, you’ll regret some things you do and some things you don’t. Playing it safe will not save you from regret. There’s no escaping it, it’s the cost of doing business as a human being. Just make the smartest choices you can.
I have no idea
Parents often adopt a ‘fake it till you make it’ attitude, never wanting to look like they don’t know in front of their kids. Hearing parents say they don’t know is a validating, humanizing experience that is likely to make your children trust you more and come to you more even as they grow older.
When you’re wrong, apologize. A genuine apology will go a long way in building a solid relationship in their childhood and even later on as an adult.
Live for the moment
We often focus too much on the future and children pick up on this. How often do you hear adults asking children, “What do you want to be when you grow up”. Children endlessly talk about wanting to grow up. Live in the moment, savour it, life moves too fast. The future is also not assured, and too often we act like it is.
We can fix this
Parents often rush in to fix problems for their children. One parent regrets doing it, instead wishing he’d quashed the impulse to take over and instead offered his kids support instead of solutions. He wishes he’d stepped back and helped them work through it instead of taking control. Teaching instead of being pushy and overbearing. Fixing with them instead of fixing for them.
I could use your help
Children often end up feeling like a bother and an inconvenience to adults who often send them away when they’re working on something. You’ll miss those moments. One parent said he wishes he’d invited his child to work with him on projects like fixing the car and using that as a bonding moment, as a way to show his child that they are valued and their input matters.
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