As a parent, you may look back at your life and realise you didn’t achieve the dreams you wanted to while growing up. Then once you have children, you may want to realise those dreams through them. In the pursuit of raising people who will one day become productive members of society, parents also push their children too much. They may be over-committing them sometimes, without being aware.
The concept parents of wanting to live their dreams through their children is, what experts often refer to as, window parenting. They see themselves through their children.
Living your life through your children
Television reality show, Toddlers and Tiaras, perfectly captures how parents can live their lives through their children. In the show, children are paraded by their parents in pageants with make-up, spray tans, false eyelashes and synthetic hair. In many cases, the parents themselves long to enter beauty pageants but are overweight or unattractive according to pageant standards. These youngsters are judged on beauty, personality and costumes; concepts which many of them have yet to understand or define in their own terms. Window parenting doesn’t only manifest in this way.
A parent may force a child to sign up for soccer or influence which degree and which institution their child has to study in order to keep a family tradition alive or simply to give them, as a parent, something to boast about.
It’s not a bad thing for parents to expect exceptional results from their children. What is a problem is when a child fails to deliver on those results, then the parent feels like a failure and puts more pressure on the child to achieve their expectations. As a parent you know your child’s strengths and weaknesses, abilities, interests and behavioural patterns and these go a long way in determining what kind of results to expect.
For example, is it realistic and practical to expect an A in Mathematics when you know your child struggles with numbers? Is it fair to sign them up for soccer or ballet when their interests are not inclined that way?
Talk to your kids
Communication with children is essential in determining what one should anticipate.Children can sometimes sense their parent’s desperation and want to please them by partaking in academic, sport and cultural activities which they would not otherwise engage in. Dr. John Duffy, a psychologist and the author of The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens, suggests that parents should determine their motives when pushing their children. These could be rooted in their yearning for a trophy child; their vicarious living through their child or a genuine longing for providing the best for their child.
Signs that a child is over committed
Window parenting can put immense pressure on the child. Children can show physical and behavioural symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and restlessness when dealing with the stress of a busy schedule and demanding parents. In addition, they may appear depressed, refuse to communicate their feelings as these have been previously disregarded and show less interest in activities that were once important to them.
Strike a balance
Desiring the best for your child is not an offence, but rather one of the qualities that make an available and good parent. There is however, a thin line between encouraging children to realise their full potential and imposing unrealistic and selfish expectations on them.
Peggy Tsatsoulis, a life coach and psychologist, advises that parents speak to their children. This helps determine what the parent can do to help their child realise their own goals and offers the affirmation that the child is good enough. Furthermore, Tsatsoulis encourages parents to speak to their children’s teachers about their behaviour and abilities as teachers spend a great deal of time with them and are aware of their capabilities.