July 11, 2018

How Not To Live Through Our Kids

Psychologists say we parents transfer our own unfulfilled ambitions onto our children. (Sing out, Louise!) Are we living through our kids? Is that bad? How do we stop? Here’s how to take a step back if you find yourself a little too over-invested.

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First we’re setting aside our own hopes and dreams to have (and raise) our kids. Then we’re relentlessly mocked (perhaps correctly) for being over-invested in the fourth-grade luau. Are we living through our kids? And how do we stop?

 Psychologists have long said that mothers transfer our own unfulfilled ambition onto our children. “Symbolic self-completion theory” suggests that we look to our children as symbols of ourselves, and transfer our ambitions to them— which is why we’re not jealous when they get the big part in the school play; we’re a little too thrilled. Sing out Louise!

But as psychologist Wendy Mogel reminds us, our children are not our masterpieces ,and pushing them towards our own notions of greatness prevents them from becoming the humans they are meant to be. In this episode we discuss the pitfalls of “achievement by proxy distortion” and how to take a step back if you find yourself a little too enmeshed.

Our favorite book on this topic is Leo the Late Bloomerby Robert Kraus, the story of a tiger cub who just isn’t getting it and his dad who is trying to not freak out. Recommended for kids, really recommended for parents.

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