Monday, 2 June 2014

A lesson in unconditional parenting

I saw an amazing video this morning that reminded me of the value of unconditional parenting. Whether you're a new parent, or an old one, you need to see this!
This video goes for 7 minutes but it's an engaging 7 minutes. Watch it to the end because it's the last 30 seconds that validate these parents' efforts!

I was so touched when I saw this. I felt for this little boy because I had the same struggles as him growing up. Not that I ever wanted to be a boy, but I know the difficulty of growing up not being allowed to be who you truly are. 

As a child, everytime someone tells you that what you want for yourself is wrong or not acceptable, you hear "You are wrong." "You are not acceptable." This is why so many of our young people are turning to suicide because if you're told you're not ok, not lovable, not worthy - what's the point of living? 

I applaud these parents for being brave enough to listen to their child. If 41% of transgendered people are killing themselves, would you rather have a girl who dresses as a boy, or not have your child at all? It seems like a pretty clear choice to me. 

Even at 4 years old, we all have a voice and a right to live our lives the way we want. If your child tells you they want to cut their hair, wear their Superman outfit or they feel like a boy, who are you to tell them they can't or they're wrong? Why say no? Saying no means you are really saying they don't have the right to express who they really are and you're not ok with who they truly are.

Why say that to a child? Because you're worried what others will think if your child walks out in public looking like that? Because you're worried you will be judged?

I think the greatest challenges we face in life as humans is being comfortable in our own skins and being truly authentic. To achieve that, you need love, support and encouragement so you know it's ok. We are not the colour or length of our hair, our weight, or our clothes. We are our choices, the strength of our character, our values and the contents of our hearts.

When I think about the life I want Sticky to lead, it's about her, not me. I want to raise an independent, brave, courageous, compassionate, loving, generous woman. If she wants to wear her pyjamas, a tutu and gumboots to the shops I'll let her because I want to encourage her to make her own decisions and express herself in whatever way she feels. 

I want her to know that I will love her and support her no matter what she does, or what she looks like. I want her to be brave enough to stand out in this world, not shrink in the corner. I want her to know that she's exceptional, not ordinary. It's up to me to build the inner strength and resolve she'll need to do that. 

How we raise our children is up to us and we will all do it in different ways. Your way will be different to mine and that's ok. But I urge you to think about what your words really mean to a child. I can assure you that what you SAY, and what they HEAR are two very different things. Before you speak, think about whether your words are going to inflate your child, or deflate them. If it's the later, then it's a probably not worth saying it. 

How you perceive your child exerting their independence is really up to you. You can choose to foster it, or squash it. You can choose not to let your child wear a tutu and gumboots to the shops because you would be too embarrassed to be seen with them. Or, you could choose to let them, hold their hand, and show the pride you feel at your child being an individual. I know which one I'll be doing and I can't wait to take her gumboot shopping! 

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