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can be heard discussing Positive Psychology here.


Be Compassionate, Be Real, Be Vulnerable

October 3, 2013

Are you the adult you want your child to grow up to be?  This is no small question, because the odds are pretty good that he will eventually become more or less the adult you are.  “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Do you feel vulnerable about the little and big decisions you have to make every day concerning your child?  No handbook on parenting has all the answers.   By adhering to a certain method alone, by knowing the “right” way alone, you may not adequately help your child be happy, make friends, and achieve success.

Although a good parenting handbook can be helpful, it can’t remove the frustration and fear arising from your own uncertainty or self-doubt.  What might be more useful than looking for a book which answers the question, “Am I parenting the right way?” would be to ask yourself, “Am I the adult that I want my child to grow up to be?”  Joseph Chilton Pearce observed that what you are teaches the child more than what you say, so you must be the person you want your child to become.  To do this, the parent must be vulnerable and love and accept who she herself is. 

Do you allow yourself to feel emotionally exposed?  How do you behave when you’re feeling uncomfortable and uncertain?  Are you willing to take emotional risks?   You must see the value in your feelings, accept them and share them with your child if you want him to do the same.

When you model the truth that life is a process that includes feelings, you give your child the opportunity to observe firsthand how personal growth and being vulnerable looks and feels.  Thus he learns that uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks are normal parts of life, can be faced, and can result in growth, change and learning.  

Also, by being vulnerable and embracing your own imperfections, you teach compassion by example.  You and your family remain connected by letting yourselves be seen and by honoring each other’s vulnerability.  In this way all family members learn the courage it takes to be their true, authentic selves.
They will learn how to be accountable and respectful through watching you make your mistakes and then your amends.  They will learn how to ask for what they need and how to talk about how they feel.  Again, your words, and especially your actions, how you treat yourself, them, and others are their most important teachers. 

A word of warning – one common obstacle to being vulnerable is shame.   If you shame yourself for certain actions or blame yourself when you feel something you aren’t “supposed” to feel, like anger, fear, or sadness,  you will have a difficult time teaching compassion and connection, much less being an example of these things to your child.  Be compassionate to yourself, without pretending that you have made no mistakes.  Admit them and make amends.  Compassion and connection, in addition to being antidotes to shame and blame, gives us meaning and purpose in life.  Children who feel they have meaning and  purpose are definitely on the road to success and happiness – without your having to resort to using that parenting handbook mentioned earlier!

Being human, you will not love, teach or show your children everything perfectly, but you can give them them the sacred gift of what it is to be truly seen and known. By practicing vulnerability, you and your children will learn that you are worthy of being loved and of belonging.  This will happen because you have given the gift of love and belonging first of all to yourself.  Through this vulnerable action, you and your child become the persons you wish to be. 

“Daring Greatly,” a book by Brene Brown, Ph.D., has more information on the transformational power of vulnerability.



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