Bringing up happy confident children must surely be most parents dream but how easy is it to achieve? We want our children to be happy and feel good about themselves but ultimately we can’t live their lives for them and the best we can do is to help them learn how to cope with life and learn how to be responsible for themselves.
My daughter is now 36 – a happy confident girl, successful in work and with a great relationship with her husband but how much of this is down to how she was reared. Unfortunately her father and I were divorced when she was only 10 but I always put her first 100% and she knew I was always there for her. Teenage years were challenging as she sought to develop her own identity and at the ‘inbetween’ age of 15 she said to me one day: “Mummy you will have to be patient with me as at the moment I am neither one thing or the other!”
Anyway she seems to have turned out well and even to this day, I still regularly remind her of how proud I am of having her as a daughter, the person she is, her many acheivements and how she lives her life. She said that knowing I was happy for her to pursue any career of her choice was an important factor for her when she started work.
Whether I will have grandchildren or not I don’t know yet, but my daughter told me that if she did have any children she would like to bring them up just as she was reared …so I must have been doing something right!
It was interesting to hear the experiences of another mum, Sarah Hampson whose excellent article in the Globe and Mail shares her experience of bringing up her sons and describes how her consistent and practical support was successful…
My three boys must have been in their early teens.
“I will always love you,” I told them over dinner one night. “Even if you were in prison, I would love you.” And then I allowed a dramatic pause. “But I wouldn’t be proud of you.”
They looked up at me from their mounds of spaghetti, solemn and bewildered. I figure that was around the time the two older ones (the three were born in less than 5 years) had exploded through the front door during a shoving match that began outside in the snow. The fight (with handfuls of snow) continued in the front hall of our house.
“Oh Sarah,” sighed a friend of mine, who witnessed it. The dispute began when one of the boys embarrassed the other in front of her two girls. She shot me that unmistakable look of girlfriend empathy – the kind that says she understands my situation, really feels bad about it and yet knows she won’t have to deal with it in her life, ever, thank God. When I sent the boys to their rooms to cool off, she left with her girls, probably to go and quietly make doilies or something. I had no idea what girls did to be honest, just that it didn’t involve testosterone.
The prison line was a joke, of course. It was my silly way of underscoring my unconditional love for them at the same time as I was trying to develop their…
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I absolutely agree with Sarah Hampson – you do your best and that is all you can do. Confidence and happiness are not always easy to achieve at any age.
I think the main thing is that your children know you are there for them when they need you, that you love them and that you take time to really listen to them. Not an easy thing sometimes in the busy lives we live now, but really important so that your child feels they are worth listening to. This is what will allow them to become happy children with healthy self confidence.