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Individuality

As parents, we sometimes allow our hopes and dreams for our children to become an issue of control, and to get in the way of our ability to see the person that they really are, who may be quite a bit different than the person we envisioned them becoming.

This can begin with children at quite a young age, from the time they come home from school with less than glowing grades in a subject we hoped they would excel at. It can really become a problem when they begin to fully become their own person in the teenage years.

It is incumbent upon us as parents to encourage our children to do that which is honorable. This is not a point of debate about what one person or another believes. If the parent believes a behavior is dishonorable, then it is their duty to teach their children to avoid it, and to encourage them into paths in their life which will allow them to continue to avoid it. We taught our kids that there were certain careers they should avoid if they wanted to avoid certain behaviors.

But we never did tell our kids that they could, or could not, pursue a specific career option. We made suggestions for things that we thought they would be suited to, and counseled with them to help them understand aspects of some options that they would not be aware of, but which we were.

It is not for the parent to try to control a child's life choices. We train the child to make good choices, and then let them discover for themselves what their destiny in life is after they leave home. Those choices can, and should be, influenced by good teaching, by wise counseling from the parents, and by appropriate educational goals. But no parent should ever feel that they have the right to decide for a child what they should become as they grow up. To do so is to doom your child to failure, because a parent who does so is going to be ignorant of the true strengths and weaknesses of their child, and will not be able to see the things that will harm the child in such a course.

I think that every parent wants at least one of their kids to love some of the same things they do. But the fact is, each child is an individual, and they may have been blessed with a different set of talents and potentials. One of my kids enjoys building computers, but he has no inclination to build web sites. Another loves writing, but has no desire to write in the way I do. Still another has great talents in artistic fields, but again, has no desire to use their artistic skills like I use mine. So each one got a part of me, but not one of them will become the same kind of person I am. I have to be willing to accept that their skills, interests, and desires are different from mine. We build on the strengths in our relationship instead of creating friction when we each appreciate and validate the differences and the similarities.

See, the thing is, if I tried to PLAN my kids, I'd have missed so much! They have each developed into a unique person, with characteristics that I could not have imagined. If I had tried to make them, I'd have missed out on those neat things that are part of them that I'd have never thought of!

This does not mean I just let them grow up willy-nilly. Good teaching and training provides for structure, appropriate control early on, and then choices and consequences later so they learn to make good choices on their own. But it separates things that have a definite right and wrong, from the things that are purely a matter of personal choice. If my child WANTS to become a doctor, that is good. If I want them to become a doctor, and feel that they are foolish NOT to want it, then that is not good, and I am the one who is in the wrong. If they choose to work fast food, I am ok with that. Because they are the one that has to live with the choice. If they want to become a soldier, teacher, mechanic, or any other honorable career choice, with or without a college education, then that is their choice, for their life. I am not the one who lives their life, and they have to live their dreams, not mine.