Our children are precious to us. When they bring home a great report card, win the lead in the school play, hit a homerun or earn a spot on the cheerleading team, we are so proud of what our children have accomplished. Most parents don’t intentionally place their child on a pedestal, but it can be easy to fall into the trap of using our children’s accomplishments, looks, personalities and attributes to actually make us feel good about ourselves and impress others. And by doing so, we risk placing unnecessary pressure on our children to live up to unfair expectations and be responsible for meeting our emotional needs.
In his book “Trophy Child”, author Ted Cunningham explores how today’s child-centered homes can have a negative impact on raising responsible, confident children who strive to become the men and women God intended them to be. There’s nothing wrong with being a “football mom,” “basketball dad,” or “dance mom,” but Cunningham warns that we should not let our children’s accomplishments or attributes define our identity as well.
It’s also easy to let life become a competition when we start measuring our parenting abilities against those of other parents, especially when everyone else’s kids seem to be excelling in school, sports or other areas while our own children are struggling. Balance is the key. Encourage your children to do their best, but don’t pressure them with unrealistic expectations or to excel in activities that may not be things they want to pursue.
“When kids spend their childhood years fulfilling Mom and Dad’s dreams, they lose out on discovering who God created them to be and what He has prepared for them to do,” writes Cunningham.
Below are some tips to help avoid the “Trophy Child” Trap:
* Place more emphasis on helping your children develop character and less on their achievements.
• Spend less time directing teens toward a career or aspiration that the world defines as “successful,”— instead walk alongside of your teen and help them explore and discover the plans that God has for them.
• Identify the parent peer pressure around you that fuels the competitive parenting.• Realize that your kid’s actions don’t define you as a parent—Even the best parents have kids that make poor choices.
• Allow your kids to learn from failures —Character is built more on the bench than on the field.
For more advice and wisdom on giving your children space to find themselves without losing your identity, check out “Trophy Child: Saving Parents from Performance, Preparing Children for Something Greater Than Themselves” by Ted Cunningham.