Helping Our Children Sink or Swim?

“Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.”

Bob Keeshan

The pool was full of aspiring swimmers – all toddlers, excited and afraid in equal measure but more excited than anything else. And then there was that one child – who was more afraid than anything else.

I watched my little one splash away in delight but my eyes kept wandering back to the little boy whose crying echoed across the water. I watched as his father dragged him across the side, trying to push his legs in the water and I wondered if his knees were bruised. I watched as his mother told him “We’ve already paid the fees, so you have to swim now” and I wondered if he knew what the word ‘fees’ meant. I watched as the instructor told him to look at all the other children and be brave and I wondered if his little ego hurt. I watched and wondered if his throat was hoarse from the heart wrenching screams of fear that kept coming up. Overall, as I watched, I realized that my heart hurt watching this go on for the hour, but not as much as his little heart must have been hurting.

I wondered what makes some parents push their children beyond a breaking point. Equally I wondered if they were doing the right thing by not letting him give up so quick. Reflecting deeper, I realized that what was troubling, wasn’t the fact that the parents were trying to get their child to swim, it was the way they did it. It didn’t seem to be about him or his fears, it seemed entirely about themselves, their fees, their pride, their ambitions. It didn’t seem like it was about making him succeed at swimming to make him feel good. It was about them feeling good…or so it seemed to me.

Setting high expectations for our children is key to setting them on a path to excellence. If we allow them to give up all the time, we are doing them a disservice. But I think there are 2 aspects often overlooked:

a. Who is the expectation serving – the child or the parent? Are we setting these expectations so that they will gain from it? Or so that it will make us happy as we struggle through our own lives seeking success? Is it a strength of theirs we are nurturing or a strength we want them to have?

b. How do we serve the expectation we set? What is our role in ensuring the expectation is met – how can we positively contribute to it? Our own subconscious belief in our children, deep in our hearts, finds implicit ways to reach them. And that is what defines them. So if we believe our kids are useless and lazy, then that is what they will be.  If we truly believe they are special and wonderful, it works the same way and they believe it too.

And so we come full circle. As the parent is, so will be the child. Lets work on ourselves, the better we are, the better they will be #GifttheLight

“Children… are our legacy. Our responsibility. They are our destiny and we are theirs. The extent to which we fail as parents, we fail as God’s children.” Dirk Benedict


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