As parents it’s so easy to use our children to satisfy deep needs in us, without even realizing it. I must confess, I fall into that all the time.
It can come out in different ways for each person.
The Void of Love and Acceptance
Children can give us love like no other. And if we are not emotionally whole human beings, we will start to crave that love from them and can even get addicted to it. We will go out of our way to please our children, even at the expense of other things like our spouse, ourselves, or even their own good. Our children become the centre of our world, and we want to make them happy, because it makes us feel good and we desperately want their love.
The Void of Not Being Valued and Respected
As parents we are bigger and stronger than our children, and we can make them do what we want with force, or even just fear. We can insist on obedience and respect, but if we look deep down at our motives, it may not be for the sake of the child, but because we want our ego to be satisfied. We may find ourselves lashing out at our child, if they have not given us the value and respect we think is due to us.
The Void of Fear of Rejection (Living to Please Others)
Again, if we have this void in our hearts, which comes out of a sense of constantly wanting to gain acceptance from others, one of the first things we do, is make our children conform – because our children represent us. So if our children do something that people around regard with disdain, it reflects on our parenting. If we are not secure, we will force our children or put undue pressure on them to behave in certain ways, especially when in public, and in the long run, even affecting areas like their career choice, marriage, etc.
These are just a few of the voids that we have in us, that can deeply wound our children. So just being aware of what our weakness are, is the first step to helping us not to act in that way towards our children.
As a parents, we are stewards of our children. We don’t own them. We are responsible for training them to become the individuals they were meant to be.
Many times our parenting is focused on what makes us feel good. Or what we want or don’t want. But good parenting is mindful of the child – focusing on the qualities or character traits that need to be developed in them. So for example, if a child spills a glass of milk, a parent who has a void of wanting love and acceptance, may give the child a hug and say its ok, and clean it up for them. A parent who lives to please others, may think that their child is becoming clumsy, and what other people will think of them if their child does it in public, and so they may shout at or shame the child. But a mindful parent, will assure the child of their love and tell them it’s ok to make mistakes, but will also help the child take responsibility for their actions, by helping clean up the mess.
I don’t think any parent can ever be perfect, and each of us will have our own different voids. But it’s important to be aware of them, work on those areas, talk with your spouse and other trusted friends about it, and try our best to make sure that we are not using our children to fill those voids.