Hi Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
Since I have become a father my life’s purpose has been to make all the correct decisions for my children’s well being. Now that my son is six and my daughter is eleven, I realize I have been over the top trying to control all aspects of everybody’s lives. I have alienated friends and other parents because of my attitude of Me Against the World. Although my intent was to protect my family from evil doing, I know that the problems stem from a lack of confidence in my social standing. I do not make much money and my house needs repairs I can’t afford. I think that other people tend to look at my job as menial and view me as a lower class citizen.
I know have to break out of my woeful approach to life- but truthfully, I see my fatherhood as my only asset to this world; and now I am screwing that up too.
I need to restore my faith that the loved ones in my life can survive without my help 100% of the time, but I don’t know where to begin. I used to be confident and I used to have friends. Now I lack both. Thanks for your time.
There are two different, but intertwining, issues here. The first and foremost is one of self confidence and self esteem. Reality is ambiguous- you can never really know what anyone is thinking. When you try to do “the right thing” or anticipate people’s opinions of you, you create a very black and white, right or wrong, view of the world. As a result, you set up a situation where you can never be right. Almost anything you do in this scenario becomes the wrong thing to do. This whittles you down over time and makes you more and more anxious.
The second issue is that of parenting. You love your children, and want to protect them, but your reality is based on what you pay attention to. Your heightened awareness of the dangers of this world, and your anticipation how people will screw you, is a type of role modeling that creates a world where people cannot be trusted and are out to get you. This can sensitize your children to the same.
The Irony is that self esteem does not come from being safe and protected. Being over-protected can have the same end result as being treated badly; both can lead to low self esteem. Proper self esteem comes from self respect, and self respect comes from treating both one’s self and others with respect and kindness. Self respect also develops from being successful in the endeavors you pursue- it necessitates risks in order to grow. That’s why growing up in an overly protected nest causes poor self esteem. Self respect comes from a focus on the possible and the positive.
Rather than doing everything for them, let your children learn to help themselves. Teach them that not everyone is worthy of their attention- people who are mean and irritable have their own issues and it has nothing to do with them. I would reinforce the idea that their life will be a lot more pleasant if they pick people who aren’t miserable to hang with. This can only happen if you, as their role model, are not miserable yourself.
Your faith in your loved ones comes from your faith in yourself and also from your faith in the world. This faith is actually built from your behaviors. If you are affectionate with your wife and show kindness to others, this in turn will reflect back on you and your family. WHATEVER YOU DO COMES BACK TO YOU……..
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: it’s natural to want to protect your children and keep them from harm. But protection can be a double edged sword. Here’s an example- a parent can try to keep their child from getting sick by sterilizing surfaces, supplying generous gobs of hand sanitizer and keeping them away from ” filthy flea-bitten animals.” But numerous studies have shown that children who are raised in households that are messy and have pets tracking dirt all over the place have much healthier immune systems than those raised in sterile homes. Why? Because you cannot become immune to something without being exposed to it.
By attempting to keep your kids from being exposed to danger, negative opinions, and harm, you are insuring that if they ever encounter those things, they won’t have the slightest idea how to deal with them.
Unless you plan to keep your kids encased in a plastic bubble at home for the rest of their lives, I suggest you give them a chance to get their hands dirty and see what’s out there. Rather than being their protector, a better role for you would be to act as the firm yet wise father who is available for guidance and back-up; and you can’t do that if you are worried about what others think or how they perceive your place in society.
Believe in yourself and other will too. Don’t kick yourself because you aren’t rolling in dough and driving a Lexus. I’ve seen as many, if not more, screwed up kids with wealthy parents as with poor ones. Throw your average affluent swell onto a desert island and he’ll starve in a few days. Throw a handyman onto the same island and he’ll start his own country. Need I say more?