By Guest Blogger Juan Santos M.S., CRC, LCMHC
I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t even know this term of “becoming an authentic parent” existed until I found myself in the clinical space as a licensed professional counselor.
An authentic parent sees their child whole. From the minute that they enter this world you guide them with compassion, celebrate their uniqueness, strengthen their personal interest, open the doors to emotional conversations and connection, foster trust, nurture independent growth, and love them as they are.
Authentic parents practice the following behaviors:
- Empowering your child.
- Nurturing your child’s authenticity.
- Not controlling your child’s life or future.
- Letting your child choose their own direction.
- Showing up in a genuine manner.
- Being emotionally available.
- Being honest and real with your child.
- Listening to your child.
- Asking your child questions connected to their viewpoint and feelings.
- Willingness to understand your child’s point of view
A personal example:
For instance, yesterday, I took my son Alex to Target. He is five, so you know he is all about Target. Eventually we found ourselves browsing through the toy section. Every so often I would encourage him to get a certain toy that connected to my childhood. I would say, “Alex get this Pokémon. It’s Pikachu. You know daddy used to love Pokémon.”
In another aisle, I was encouraging him to get the batman car. I shared with him that batman is my favorite superhero, and he should get it. You know, he didn’t get the batman car. He didn’t get the Pokémon. He ended up going with a toy ball that is sold by the YouTube family Ninja Kids. To be honest with you, it was an interesting experience for me. So much of me. Of my inner child. Of my childhood, wanted him to go with the Batman or Pokémon option.
I share this story with you to give you access to my life as a parent. To first and foremost, share with you that being an authentic parent is a journey and not a destination. Knowing that we as parents will have our ups and downs. That day at Target, I found myself trying to push my interest onto him. Instead, I should have given my son space to share his interest and receive my support.
2 Ways to Grow into an Authentic Parent
1 – Giving your child space to show up
In my counseling practice, I find myself sitting with parents and asking a very simple question. What does your child like to do? Parents often reply by sharing interest connected to video games, sports, or playing with toys. Therefore, I ask the parents the following question: Are the interest yours or those of your child? At this point, we dive into a deep conversation connected to the journey of being an authentic parent.
An authentic parent takes time to allow their child to develop their own interest versus pushing the parental interest onto them. This simple shift helps you see your child for who they are versus molding them to be something else. Subsequently, as your child grows they will be able to walk in their own shoes and not struggle trying to becoming something that they are not.
2 – Valuing uniqueness and freedom
- Do you praise your child for their uniqueness?
- Do you give your child the freedom to show up in their own unique way?
For example, I remember years back doing a family therapy session. One of the parents said to their child, stop being shy. Answer Mr. Santos’s question. We were deep in our therapeutic relationship, so I had a good idea in understanding the family’s dynamic. I stepped in during that moment and asked the family if we could shift to a writing activity. I wrote down the following on a sheet of paper: Do you feel that you are shy or you like to listen and observe? I handed this to the child. He circled, listen and observe. With his permission, we discussed his response. Thus, it proved as an eye opener for everyone.
The above is shared to highlight the uniqueness that comes from authentic parenting. An authentic parent takes time to ask their child questions aimed at exploring their viewpoint, feelings, thoughts, and individuality. In addition, an authentic parent works to truly give their child space to show up in a manner that allows them to be who they are versus to grow into the mold set by others. To children, this is freedom. You as the parent are generously giving your child a freeing sense to know that they can be themselves and receive love.
Parenting is a Journey
In conclusion, if you are a parent reading this, I want to share with you that parenthood is a journey. I don’t think that anyone has it down pat. We are all trying our best to raise good human beings. From one parent to another, I thank you for showing up and trying.
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