Cultures, Social Behavior

Parental Ego: How Children Are Living Mirrors of Self-Discovery

parental ego
“When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a “mini me,” but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is. Children aren’t ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit our needs.”

–Dr. Shefali Tsabury

Letting Go of Negative Parental Ego

Most of us have heard and even laughed about stories involving extreme parental ego. The Little League father who gets into a physical altercation with the coach who calls his son out at home plate is a good example. When parents see their children as reflections of themselves rather than as separate individuals, it may be a manifestation of parental ego.

To be sure, many societies encourage such a view by making parents responsible for the consequences of their children’s behavior. When a child displays behavior considered socially inappropriate, the parents are judged and even publicly blamed.

In the face of so much social pressure, it is no easy feat for parents to recognize and assist in developing children’s separate and unique identities. It is this very social pressure to conform that parents pass on to their children, making it difficult for children to express their true emotions. The inability to do so often results in unhealthy and inappropriate acting.

In extreme cases this can mean self-injurious behavior like cutting. According to Dr. Tsabury, author of The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children“, the preface for which was written by the Dalai Lama, there are some things parents can do to keep their sense of parental pride and responsibility from becoming toxic parental ego. One of those things is for parents to identify those issues within their children that they themselves may be struggling to accept within themselves.

How Parenting Ego Results in Less Social Support

In a recent interview with the Dalai Lama Center for Education, Dr. Tsabury called for a radical modification to parenting methods she referred to as “archaic”. Rather than the current hierarchical system, she believes that society should play a larger role in supporting, rather than judging, struggling parents.

That social support would include stress-relieving economic assistance for new parents in the form of paid parental leave that would allow parents the time necessary to establish strong familial relationships. Currently, parents are told that they should be able to do it all themselves, then made to feel inadequate when problems arise.

With so many child care experts giving opposing opinions, most parents can be assured that no matter their parenting philosophy, there is an expert who will tell them they are doing it wrong. One of the reasons for the popularity of this book is that rather than expecting parents to already possess all the right answers, the author acknowledges without judgement that parents as well as children continue to learn, heal and grow throughout their lifetimes. Parents refusing to be controlled by parental ego makes it more possible for them to unite in demanding that social institutions become more supportive of children and families.

Mindfulness Versus Parenting Ego

Self-knowledge is the key to conscious parenting. Instead of being expected to be completely well-adjusted themselves, parents are encouraged to identify their own unmet childhood needs. Through doing so, the pain associated with those unmet needs can be expressed in ways that will ensure that unhealthy generational patterns are not repeated. Defining the individual traits within children that parents are themselves struggling with is a way for parents to accept both themselves and their children more fully and completely.

Conscious parenting, unlike parental ego based parenting, is rooted in the eastern concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation has even been proven to have the ability to change adult brain structures. In one study, participants spent only 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises. Brain scans performed before and after the study show increased density in the hippocampus. That part of the brain plays a big role in memory and learning, as well as one of the most important aspects of parenting—self-awareness and compassion. An additional important benefit was a significant reduction of stress. As every parent knows, stress can make demonstrating exemplary parental behavior under difficult circumstances not just equally difficult, but nearly impossible.

Through the miracle of mass media and the internet, many of Western civilization’s positive contributions, such as women’s rights, have positively affected many societies around the world. It comes as no surprise that equally valuable contributions from the east should affect Western civilization as well. For perhaps the first time in history, humanity has the opportunity to take the best that each civilization has to offer for the benefit of all children throughout the world.

parental ego
An Egyptian Peasant Woman and Her Child, Léon Bonnat, 1869–70, Credit Line Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Bequest
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