“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
— Thomas Merton
Giving your children freedom to be and develop into exactly who they are, and to live a life that is authentic for them, is one of the absolute greatest gifts of love we can give as parents. We teach our kids what behavior is acceptable in our home, we pass on life skills, and we battle them on doing things we believe are important to their health and well-being, like brushing their teeth. Letting our children know, however, that they are free to be different from us and that we love them no matter who they are is incredibly important.
I believe on a core level kids love their parents and want to please them. They want to make their parents proud because that makes them feel good about themselves. I think that the desire to please can be a range in different children, but that it is there. Some children express their free will earlier on. It is crucial as parents to be open and really listen to whether your child is taking a path because they are trying to please you or because it is authentic for them.
It is a slippery slope. When children feel they have to mirror what their parents want for them to please them, they might get trapped in a life that is not their truth. They sacrifice happiness there and it can be very hard for them to break free of that, if they ever do.
On the other side, when we put conditions on our love and our children choose to be different from us anyway; they could grow up feeling like they were a disappointment to their parents, like they were never good enough. I don’t think that is really what any parent truly wants for their child.
It takes strength and deep love to let your children feel free and loved enough to be who they are, no matter how much that opposes parts of you. The younger you instil this freedom in your children the better for their self discovery. Giving children freedom doesn’t mean you are going to permit them run into the street full of cars, allow them never to eat vegetables, accept vulgar language or let their teeth rot, it means giving them freedom to be “perfectly themselves” and loving the authentic them not simply “the reflection of ourselves we find in them”.
“Children are born through us, not of us” – paraphrase from Oprah Winfrey