I read with interest my colleague’s Valuable without Labels blog post last week. Like him, I wish that the young (and for that matter, even the not-so-young) will realize that they are valuable for who they are, regardless of the assessments used to measure their worth.
But labels seem to influence our perception of things and people profoundly; a lot more than we like to admit. Labels have a way of making something or someone more or less valuable.
As a parent, there have been moments when the unmet expectations of my own children have derailed the perspective I held so dearly; that is, my children are valuable regardless of the binding labels received from their (academic) assessment results.
No parent will frown upon the “As” or any other successful labels that their children obtain. It’s always the other labels that we have problems with. I can imagine the myriad of methods we parents use to cope with our disappointment and unmet expectations. We do the instinctive – nag, compare, give pep talks, increase the pressure, go into denial, etc. you name it.
I also asked myself a hard question – “Am I, albeit unintentionally one of the many parents pursuing the quintessential Singapore Dream; defined as getting your children to exceed your lot in life?” This is one dream which slavishly fills parents with anxiety as the achievement benchmarks are constantly being raised.
Upon reflection, it struck me that our children must know that their value or worth isn’t determined by the norm, or world’s standards alone; all the more when a child’s self-esteem is largely shaped by his parents. Should I fall into the trap of defining successful parenting as essentially getting my children to embrace my standards and goals, and achieving them; I think I would have grievously overlooked my key role as a parent.
I’m reminded of a tip which I give as a family life educator myself – that’s to get into the mindset that everything you do as a parent ultimately is part of validating or nurturing your children. Validating is letting your child know he/she is good enough. Nurturing is filling your child up with aliveness!
The world will constantly dole out its various labels in every life stage of our children. Often times, these labels can be premature, deceiving or harsh. As a parent, I shouldn’t add to that problematic list. I need to conversely undo the effects of every unkind label and keep at nurturing and validating my children.
I must do what the world won’t do. No one will love our children as unconditionally as we will. As parents, we have plentiful, unmatched opportunities to do that. This is our lot in life as parents! I shall focus my attention to love them more!