I’ m not a therapist, just a mother of three teenage sons aged, fourteen, eighteen, and twenty. What makes me an expert on child rearing? Having experienced it, plus I have an international perspective on child rearing.
Let’s start with what most parents agree on.
Children need to feel safe and loved in order to thrive.
Children need to learn to feel good about themselves.
Children need to learn how to become independent adults.
Here’s where the selfish parent comes into the picture. As a child/teenager, would you feel happier and more secure if you saw your parents talking lovingly to one another, showing affection, holding hands in public or would you prefer all the attention focused on you 100 percent of the time with your parents barely acknowledging one another except when it involves you, your education and all your extra-curricular activities? Research shows that kids feel more secure when their parents show love for each other.
Would it take the burden off you as a child/teenager, if your parents backed off your case about having to excel in sports and perform like a pro? Would you prefer your parents to go out to dinner together once in a while and talk about topics that relate to them and their dreams when you’re out of the nest rather than have them program their social calendar around you. Do you feel pressured into becoming the next Kobe Bryant and getting a scholarship to pay for your college?
As a selfish parent, your kids realize that they are important individuals who have to take care of their own business, in order to succeed. Let me explain one case that related to our oldest son, when he was getting ready to apply to colleges. My husband and I let our sons understand that college choices were up to them, not us. If they needed a loan because they picked an expensive college, then that was up to them too. We drummed that into them, subtlety, from a young age. The way we’ve raised them from birth, has always been freedom, with guidelines. It’ s not like all of a sudden at eighteen, we said, “Hey son! You’re on your own now with those college applications.” No, they knew, all along, that college was important, and that they had to pick what interested them. We didn’t drive our oldest son, or fly him to half a dozen colleges to see if he liked them. We waited for him to do his own research, send out his own essays, applications, or whatever they asked for. He didn’t want us to help him with his essays, and we never even read them. It wasn’t until he got accepted at three different colleges that we said, “Pick your two favorite and we’ll go check out the Universities.” I took my son to orientation at both of them, and then he made up his mind which one he liked, with no push from us.
Finally another reason it’s beneficial for children to have selfish parents is that you don’t make your child feel that when he leaves the nest, you, as a mother, won’t survive without him either visiting or calling you frequently, or perhaps he should consider going to a local junior college so you can have him home for a couple more years. That way you can postpone the empty nest feeling.
I love my kids, but I also love my husband and look forward to doing things alone with him, when our kids are no longer home.
What do you think?
I was raised in Europe as an only child who traveled and realized that I was responsible for my own future at a young age. My husband and I have tried to teach our three sons the same values. It hasn’t always been easy, and we’ve had our fair share of problems raising them, but at least we’re both on the same page.