As a young dad, I dove into parenting books. But despite my good intentions, I somehow made a major false assumption: All parts of a child can be molded or changed with the right parenting approach. Looking back, it is so clear that this is simply wrong because… kids come out a way. Somehow, in my reading, I missed that children have inborn temperaments that guide how they process and deal with the world. For example, our kids are born with a nature that determines if they are introverted or extroverted and if they make decisions based on feelings or logic.
Oh, how I wish I had known sooner my role in my kids’ life is not about shaping their personalities but nurturing who they were naturally born to be. I would give anything to go back 20 years and have a sit-down with myself. You are welcome to eavesdrop.
Hi, younger Ted. It’s me, older Ted. First, you are doing better as a dad than you think. Keep going. But I need you to hear me. As a dad, you need to change your mindset on something major. If you change your mind about this, I promise it will greatly reduce your stress. You will become a more relaxed, happy, and better dad. Are you ready? Here it is: Kids come out a way.
Yes, nurturing your kids is important. But your job is NOT to mold them into who you think they should be or who the world will more easily accept. Those kids you love so much came out a way. Chapman came out loving, independent, and strong-willed. Judson came out mellow, funny, and logical. Teddie came out tenderhearted, energetic, and sensitive. Nikki came out compassionate, charming, and cunning. This is who they are at their core. So you should spend your best efforts trying to nurture their natures. Help them to understand themselves and how they are wired. You can’t change the core of them. Stop trying. Relax. Breathe. This is good news.
I can tell by the look on your face that you are surprised. But it makes sense when you stop and think about your most regrettable moments as a dad. All those moments started with your frustration of not being able to control your kids’ natural wiring. It’s like trying to control a plant. A plant requires care. You must water and fertilize plants. But you cannot create, form, or change the core characteristics of plants. An oak tree will never become a palm tree no matter where you plant it. Plants, in part, grow as they were created to grow. Kids are the same.Yes, dads, kids come out a way.
So, when Chapman wins Science Olympiad and cheers like he scored a touchdown, let him. Don’t tell him his reaction was too big for a science setting. Just smile and say to yourself, “That’s my boy. And we will never see these people again.” When Judson needs a few moments before joining extended-family gatherings, let him. Kiss him on the cheek and tell him to take a few minutes and come in when he is ready. When Teddie has a big meltdown over something small, just love her. Tell her you know having big feelings is hard. When you catch Nikki doing something sneaky, don’t give her an immediate, frustrated lecture. Simply say, “Umm, I’m going to need to think about this.” Cool off and come back later with a kind yet firm approach.
Yes, dads, kids come out a way. That doesn’t mean we throw up our hands in surrender. It just gives us perspective on where to focus our love for them, which is discovering, celebrating, and nurturing their natures. This is way less pressure. Enjoy. You and your kids will be glad you did.
Sound off: Why do you think nurturing kids is so important?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is your favorite thing about yourself?”