We’ve all heard those words before, whether in real life or in a romantic comedy. “It’s not you, it’s me.” And while that cliched context is unrelated to parenting, the same words can be applied in a different way to us and our kids.
Every child is different and our parenting styles in relation to our kids can differ as well. We are the parents that our children require, no? Some kids seem to have been born responsible while others need reminder after reminder for them to take care of things. While I believe this to be true, I also think that for many kids, our style of parenting has helped to create their style of “kidding.”
Hence, it’s not just them, it’s us.
The way in which we parent often says more about us than it says about our kids. The words we say, the examples we set, the traditions that we create are all reflections of us, not our kids. Have you ever met a kid who has trouble remembering to take their homework to school with them? Or who can never find both of their shoes? This child’s focus probably isn’t on organization. I’ve met parents of this type of kid as well. They tend to always know where the shoes are (or at least have a suggestion of where to look for them). They know when homework is due. They rummage through backpacks to ensure that all of that homework is in there. They are on top of their kid’s schedule. And they are needed quite a bit in order to manage all of these moving parts. This sounds like parenting for the most part, but it begs the question: Is this kid organizationally challenged simply because that’s how they are or because that’s how their parents are helping them to be?
Controlling parents often help to create kids who need to be controlled. Worried parents often pass along anxiety to their kids (don’t forget that plenty of emotions are contagious). And while some kids will naturally need more parental influence and others will naturally be more anxious, it’s unfair of us not to examine ourselves and our roles before we label them.
In the same vein, parents with a more relaxed style often tend to have more relaxed kids. It’s not just that their kids were born relaxed. They were given an everyday model. If your child has a stellar sense of humor, chances are they were born with a penchant for that; but there’s also probably a family dynamic that encourages them to try out being funny.
The way in which we parent often says more about us than it says about our kids. After all, we are the ones in charge. We choose ways of redirecting, appropriate foods, ways of teaching kids discipline, activities, clothes and so much more. We certainly try to take our kids’ tastes into account, but we have the final say in almost every aspect of their lives. The words we say, the examples we set, and the traditions that we create are all reflections of us, not our kids.
Our kids are certainly born with individual personalities, but we play a huge part in honing their interests and characteristics. If we attribute all of their ups and downs only to them, we are discounting the influence that we have on them.
So before we say, “That’s just the way she is,” let’s take into account that plenty of the way she is has a lot to do with the way we are.