Celebrate your child’s Uniqueness
Somewhere in our race towards perfection and material success, we have forgotten how important it is to love our children unconditionally. Love cannot be offered only when the child behaves according to your requirements, love cannot be conditional upon the toddler or teenager or young adult fulfilling a set of demands laid out by you or society.
Children come through us – but they don’t belong to us. Let’s accept their unique gifts and encourage them to always be themselves and love themself unconditionally. They can learn this only when we role model it for them in both our own self-love as well as the love and kindness we show them as we raise them.
Parenting is very different from when we grew up. So much has changed from the way we grew up and the way children are growing up now. The world we grew up in had its own uniqueness and we had to conform to that environment. The world our children will inherit from us is so different from the one we grew up in – so why should we force them to follow in our footsteps? Let us give them the freedom to explore and fit into the world that they are growing up in.
Two aspects distinguish uniqueness from our generation to theirs.
When I was growing up, you were successful if you were an engineer or a doctor. There was an obsession with STEM and STEM fields because those were the ones which would guarantee a large paycheck. And, success was entirely defined by how much wealth one was able to accumulate over time. It was a way to uproot from the middle class to wealth. Education was not a very big deal before, hence there was not a lot of competition. I remember I scored 75% in my 10th board exam and that was considered “above average” Today, a much higher percentage of the urban student population scores at the 90% level. It’s become easier to “crack” exams because of the availability of tutors, tuition classes, and the internet. Academics were the way we distinguished ourselves from our peers in the 1990’s. This isn’t true anymore. Just academics will get you at par with your peers. But, you’ll have to bring additional skills to differentiate yourself.
We also grew up with the stereotype that children who weren’t in a STEM field weren’t smart enough. The creative fields of art, writing, journalism, etc. were woefully underpaid and therefore rarely pursued. Following your passion was just a movie dialogue and not the reality.
Our academic scores differentiated us from our peers.
Today your personality plays an equally crucial role.
Soft skills will set you apart from everyone else. Every single child can look good on paper. But the way you lead, communicate, socialize, think, etc. is extremely important.
Soft skills are the unique factors now. All tough exams like GRE, NAT, GATE, UPSC, JEE, etc. are being cracked easily by a lot of children. Now almost every college, esp. the Ivy Leagues like Harvard, Yale, Cornell, etc. expect students to offer them more than just their academic achievements. Extra-curriculars hold a crucial role in the development of a child today. When children explore interests apart from academics, they grow up into smart, empathetic creative problem solvers as opposed to just having book smarts (which often to not translate to the real world).
How can you positively acknowledge each child’s uniqueness?
No parent wants their child to be unhappy. Communicate with your child and try to understand them. What do they like? What do they hate? Spend time engaging with your children. The more you engage, the more you will understand the mindset and thought process of your child. They will show you their authentic self. Acknowledge and support them, and together look for answers that serve them better in their own unique growth.
Here are 4 easy tips to start embracing and celebrating your unique child :-
1. Avoid Comparing
Comparing your child to classmates, siblings or even yourself helps no one! It almost always leaves your kid feeling he/she is not good enough, which in turn can lead to serious anxiety issues or even depression.
Whether young or a teenager, appreciate them for who they are. Let them know they’re unique and you accept them as they are while supporting them in their journey towards becoming kind and caring adults.
If you find yourself comparing your child to another’s, remember that you, dear parent, make mistakes too. Imagine how hurt you would be if your child tells you how Rahul’s father is always better than you.
Imagine your child wants to try something new but is hesitating because he/she thinks they are not good enough or the fear of failure is keeping them from it. At times like these, as parents, it is your job to encourage them into doing it anyway. Teach them to befriend failure. Allow them to feel that it is okay to be mediocre. Fear of failure is what keeps them from trying anything new. Teaching them failure to be a part of the process will push them to try new things and discover what they are good at.
Don’t insist on your children living your idea of a perfect life. Let them define their own life and pursue what brings them joy. Allow for different race-tracks and races; let youngsters flourish in a world they’re part of creating. Give them the freedom to find themselves. Encourage them to try and fail. Not everyone has the same interests so let them find theirs.
4. Perfection is impossible
Expecting our children to be flawless causes immense amounts of stress for both parents and children. Too often, children are subjected to the pressure to be ideal, to conform to the false images that are placed upon them. The results are definitely painful, if not disastrous.
Allow your child to be mediocre. They do not have to excel in everything they do. If your child likes to paint, he does not have to be the next Picasso. Let this hobby just be a hobby. It can be a way for them to express themselves or calm them down. Hobbies are a way of therapy in an art form. It can be painting, dancing or playing any sport. The point is to enjoy it instead of perfecting it. Let them paint poorly if it gives them peace. Unrealistic expectations cannot be met. So be okay with being average.
As I mentioned earlier, parenting kids today is very different from how we grew up.
As our children grow, we must grow with them. Learn new ways with them and unlearn old ways. You can read every book, watch every video and listen to every podcast about parenting but also be kind to yourself. You know your child best. Take everything you’ve learned and put them to use in a way that works for you and your kid. Don’t worry about others – be the parent your child needs you to be – a kind, loving, and accepting parent!