By the time your children hit double digits, they're on their way to becoming who it is they'll become. Some studies suggest their personality is set by first grade. By the time kids hit middle school, pubescent-related, seemingly bi-polar mood swings notwithstanding, my observation and experience suggest a parent's influence in shaping personality is over.
The 80s movie Trading Places comes to mind, where the question was raised "Is it heredity or environment that determines how well a person succeeds in life?" I'm inclined to believe it's a matter of both, with parents having diminishing influence as children get older.
So what do you do if there's something about your child's personality you wish were different or want to change? (Note, I'm not talking about behavior in this post; I'm speaking to general disposition.)
Pray for your heart to change to accept your child the way he or she was created.
In my 19 years as a mother, this proved to be one of my most difficult parenting challenges.
By nature, I'm outgoing; it's rare not to see a smile on my face. I'll be the first to introduce myself, and I've been hand-slapped for asking too many questions in my quest to put "you" at ease.
My first born was the opposite and I wasn't prepared for the contrast.
During her elementary years, her countenance was too often not happy, which I never understood because she had every reason to be happy. She clung to me or familiar friends, never venturing out of her comfort zone. She was reserved (different from shy) and let only family and her closest friends "see" her. She was serious, stubborn and fiercely independent. Though we shared many personality characteristics, these were my antithesis.
And I didn't like them.
I didn't mind the independence so much; I felt like that would serve her well. But the other things concerned me because I thought they might limit her. Some of it I plain didn't like because those characteristics manifested themselves in behaviors and attitudes I didn't care for–the way she choose to dress, how she fixed her hair, how she related to people….
I wanted her to change to fit my expectation for a daughter; I wanted to mold her into an image of my design. I wanted her to be more like me.
And that I didn't like more than personality traits that pinched my nerves.
There was a battle within. Overall, my daughter was a great kid; good grades, mannerly, respectful of adults, helpful around the house. But because she was "lacking" in a few areas according to my view of the Perfect Child, she "needed" to change.
I'm not proud to admit this, but I doubt I'm the only one, either.
Somehow, miraculously, I kept these thoughts to myself. I'm sure they leaked out in plenty of unspoken ways, but for the most part I didn't badger her. After middle school I gave up on dressing her the way I wanted (her taste was simple and modest) and the only time I asked her to consider changing her hair was on school picture day.
And I prayed for wisdom.
In the deepest places, I did not want to bruise her heart; if God created her this way, I wanted to love her just as she was. My heart was slowly changed…
Our differences were not moral failings. In the scheme of life, they meant little to nothing.
In our story, by the time she left high school, some of these things DID change. But NOT because I had anything to do with it! Because of how she was wired, coupled with her own convictions and desire to change, she did. Though we'll never know, I'm convinced that had I pushed her, nagged her and tried to change her during those middle and early high school years, hers would be a different story to tell.
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So, dear readers–are there areas you're pushing your children now, to try to mold them in to your image or one of your choosing? Could it be that you need to bite your tongue, SEE all their positive qualities and let them continue growing into who THEY'RE supposed to be? Maybe not. But if so, sift through my words and let me know if anything is speaking to you…then what you plan to do about it.
A parenting series that doesn't build from one post to the next; rather, it's a collection of thoughts and advice from a mama who's been there, doing that, intended as encouragement, not dogma. I hope you'll subscribe in a reader or by email to receive notice when new posts are published! ~ ?