This morning, my child was yelling at me through the bathroom door. She wanted me to do the dirty work for her, convinced she might miss something. Half of me wanted to yell and scream at her, telling her that she’s more than old enough to wipe her own backside. The other half of me wanted to just end this argument by going in and capitulating.
I’m sick of the phrase “Pick your battles.” What does that even mean when parenting feels like a constant stream of battles?
It doesn’t just feel like a constant stream of battles, it is a constant stream of battles. That’s the real reason why parenting sucks. But, facing these battles is the most important thing you can do to raise your child.
A Character Who Wants Something
In any story, whether it’s a book, movie, or other media, it starts with a character. That character typically wants something: they want happiness, they want meaning, they want safety, they want to live. But, all storytellers know that if you give the character what they want immediately, it’s not realistic. They know this because as human beings, the things we want most require us to experience conflict. Loving relationships, meaningful work, a way to express our passion into the world, or starting our dream business that’s going to make the world a better place all require us to move through extensive external and internal conflict. And, as human beings, we do everything we can to naturally avoid conflict.
The Guide Shows the Way
So, if your character has to move through conflict to get what they really want, but they avoid the conflict at all costs, how does a writer get the character to take action? They introduce a guide. It’s the guide who helps the character believe that there is a path to the other side of the conflict. Obi-wan Kenobi helped Luke Skywalker see that there is a way to become a Jedi without giving into the dark side. Beymax showed Hero that there was a non-violent solution to his pain. Princess Celestia forced Twilight Sparkle to make friendships, knowing that this is the only way for her to develop her full potential.
It’s the guide who can see where the character is today, where they want to be in the future, and the path to get there. They see this journey, without all of the emotional baggage that comes from a direct experience of that gap.’
As Parents, We Are the Guide
Our dream as parents is that our children will grow up to become self-confident, and self-actualized. We want them to be able to face their life with strength, courage, and conviction that they have what it takes to create success, however, they choose to define it. My gut tells me that this is what they want too (even though their current actions seem to suggest against it). But, our kids are born helpless.
We begin their life by taking care of all of their needs because it’s the right thing to do. But, as they grow, they need to start developing their own skills. In time, we help them learn to eat on their own, to get dressed on their own, to read and write, to make friends, and yes, to go to the bathroom on their own. In order to become self-confident and self-actualized individuals, our kids have to develop skills and strengths in all areas of their lives. And, those first steps of developing new skills and strengths suck.
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