How To Be An Emotionally Vulnerable Parent (And Why It's So Important)
When you find the courage to let your kids see your humanity, you'll see you're not so different from one another. You find it easier to connect with people you know are authentic than people who project a caricature of themselves to the world. Your kids are no different. Imagine them voluntarily coming to you for your advice instead of you having to twist their arms to get just a few syllables out of them. When you allow yourself to be more open, your relationship with your kids will stop being strictly about roles and responsibilities. You'll become two human beings loving and supporting each other. It starts with you.
Sometimes it seems so damn hard. You're speaking the same language, but everything ends up being miscommunicated or misunderstood. It's like you're from different planets. Your kids can't understand that you're giving them guidance and instruction because you care about them. They think you're micromanaging their lives and respond by pulling away from you. You want to give them room to make mistakes but not the ones that can't be fixed. Most of the time it seems like an impossible balancing act.
I spent a long time not being honest with myself. I walked around living the life I thought a man was supposed to live. I was brash and arrogant and refused to acknowledge that I could be emotional. I thought emotions made people weak. I didn't talk about my feelings. I gave guidance and instructions. I wasn't a jerk to my kids. I was offering them my love in the way I knew how to give it.
But if I couldn't let myself see who I really was; there was no way I could let my kids see behind the curtain. Those days are behind me now. I've stopped lying to myself and it's allowed me to be honest with everyone else. My kids know my story, and it's brought us much closer together.
Vulnerability exposes a truth society and tradition try desperately to keep hidden. You are unique and you were put on this earth to be you. You have the power to replace the life you've been told to live with the life you were born to live. Can you think of anything more important to model for your children?
If you are unique then so are your kids. Your job is not to create a smaller version of yourself. It's to help them develop into the ultimate expression of themselves. You have a responsibility to teach your kids to demand the right to create their own best lives. You can only do that when they see you building your own.
Being vulnerable with your kids means letting them into your life. Sharing more of yourself with your kids makes it safe for them to share themselves with you. When you tell them what scares you, they'll tell you what scares them. When they know you feel the same emotions they have they will come to you when times get tough. They'll know you've been there and can relate without judgment. Your authenticity will become the basis for their trust.
Vulnerability helps us more easily receive feedback and see that we all have a role to play in making one another our best selves. Accountability means more than developing a framework of rules and consequences. It means living our responsibility to elevate each other as human beings. If they know they can call you out for not walking the walk, you'll be able to do the same with them. Those moments are when real and relevant conversations will happen. We're all accountable to one another.
Fight the urge to tell your kids what to do and not to do. Focus instead on teaching them the incredible power their choices have to shape their futures. Talk openly about choices you've made and what those choices created in your life. When you give them your knowledge and wisdom as an offering instead of an instruction they will be more open to receive it.
Sharing your stories will show them that you've been in their shoes and help them see what you might do differently if you had another chance. Convince them not to judge themselves if a choice doesn't work out. They have the power to make another one. Your vulnerability will help teach them how to take ownership over their lives.
You might think there's no way you can let your kids in on the mistakes you've made. How can you tell your kids not to do something if they know you've done the same thing? They'll feed on that hypocrisy. Be open with them, and they'll be open with you. Talk about the mistakes you've made and what you've learned from those mistakes. Your kids are going to make their own choices anyway. Your job is to create an environment in which they can be open to receiving all you have to offer. It's in this space that your kids will make consistently better choices. When they make mistakes, which they will, it doesn't need to drive a wedge between you. Learn and grow together.
Let's recap how you can put this into practice in your own life:
Start by having the courage to look yourself in the mirror and be honest, and without judgment, about who you see staring back at you. The only way you can help your kids create the life they were meant to live is by creating the life you were meant to live. Second, understand that the most fundamental type of accountability is our accountability to each other as human beings. Develop a foundation of shared values with your children and then work together to live by them. Then teach them about the awesome power they have to choose their future. Teach them everything you've learned. Help them see that when a choice doesn't work out how they wanted they can simply make another one. They need you to help them understand that.
You can preach at them from a pulpit or lie quietly beside them and talk about your lives. The choice is yours.
If you enjoyed this content, please consider buying my new book, The DADLY Book of Open: How Cultivating Vulnerability Makes You a Stronger, Wiser, and More Courageous Father. Please visit me on the web and let me show you how to create a different point of you.