Your kids need you more than you need them.
That’s easy to see in the first years of life.
I mean, let’s face it, you don’t need your kid in order to . . .
get yourself out of bed,
ease your hunger pains,
or clean up your . . . mess.
But as they grow, it’s easier to be fooled. Kids get more independent. They take pride in doing things on their own.
In the middle-school years, the way they need you may shift. It might seem like they only look to you for:
a ride – so they can get to people they actually want to be around.
money – so they can eat something you didn’t make for them.
rescue – so that when all else fails, they can make a last ditch effort to rally your sympathy.
But the truth about being a parent is this:
Even though kids become increasingly independent,
Even though they need you less as they get older,
Your kids will always need you more than you need them.
Think about it this way: How many counselors or therapists work with parents on overcoming the emotional scars of what their kids have said or done to them?
Now, reverse that.
No matter how old we are, there is something in us that just works better when we have a healthy relationship with our parents. Parents matter. Their approval and acceptance matters. Their opinion matters. Their values and life habits matter.
Parent-child relationships aren’t balanced, equal, or fair. Maybe that’s why there are days when it feels like you give and give and give, and all they do is take and take and take. You might be right, maybe your kids could use a lesson in gratitude, but the truth is, you have more to give than they do.
A while back, I wrote Not my Valentine as a reminder that we will always love our children more than they love us.
But it’s also true that while a kid is growing up, while they are discovering who they are and making sense of the world around them, they need us more than we need them.
So, parenting is unbalanced.
Love is unbalanced on the side of a parent.
Dependence is unbalanced on the side of the kid.
That makes your relationship with your kid different than any other relationship. When you’re a parent, you have authority and influence in the life of someone who needs you more than anyone else ever has.
I was recently reading a psychology article exploring the relational-dynamic at play whenever there is an imbalance of power. It’s interesting; the one with less power always knows more about the one in power.
The bullied knows more about the bully.
The employee knows more about the boss.
The citizens know more about their political leader.
Your child knows more about you.
They study you. They watch you. They plan and discover ways to manipulate you. Your influence in their life simply can’t be understated. Maybe that’s unsettling. It probably should be. Who wants that kind of responsibility?
What matters most is how you leverage the power and authority that you have (because you do have it) for their benefit. The way you show up for them will always matter more than what they can do for you.
You’re the parent. So, when things are hard, when things get messy, when something in your world, or their world, or in the relationship between you, is broken, remember:
They need you to . . .
pay attention more
show up more
give more and
fight harder for a relationship with them.
Because your role in this relationship is bigger.
And it always will be.
Kristen is the Executive Director of Messaging at Orange and co-author of Playing For Keeps. She combines her degree in secondary education with a Master of Divinity and lives out the full Orange spectrum as the wife of XP3 Students Orange Specialist Matt Ivy, and the mother of two First-Look (preschool) children, Sawyer and Hensley.