Letting kids see our vulnerabilities
Let’s talk about vulnerability. Whether its short-comings in our personalities, our indulgences or our desires we all have some kind of vulnerability. But we desperately wish we didn’t have them, so we try to hide them; from the world and especially from our kids. Letting our vulnerabilities to be seen actually brings about connection, honesty, and compassion; while the fear is exactly the opposite.
Vulnerabilities can be a confusing word; so here are a few examples: anger management issues, smoking, laziness, depression, alcoholism, inability to make a good living, to name a very few.
Disclaimer (of sorts): This is a very complex topic that I have chosen to write about. It’s a complicated psychological-social issue that we deny to talk about to adults. Putting it in kids perspective is even tougher. But, it is very important to address this topic in order to develop empathy and unconditional acceptance in our children. So, hang in there with me on this one, and feel free to ask any questions you might have.
I know it’s a taboo to show your kids your vulnerabilities. For some reason, we don’t want to introduce our kids to our incapabilities. We just want to show them the best of us and hide all our shortcomings.
Ever wondered why do we do that?
Quite likely; we have a fear of losing our respect in their eyes. We’re afraid of rejection. It’s an irrational fear, like all other fears.
Kids are very benevolent, and they don’t like or dislike a person for their characteristics, their love and respect is very unconditional. They like or dislike a person based on how the person treats them or makes them feel; not by the inherent nature of that person.
The other big or bigger reason why we don’t want kids to see our vulnerabilities is that we don’t want them to indulge in the same indulgences we have, or take upon our incapabilities. We want them to be perfect and flawless and not have any shortcomings. Unfortunately, this is an unreasonable and very high demand from a child.
Our job as a parent is to love them unconditionally and love them with their imperfections, and encourage them to do the right things by modeling the right things; not by hiding our flaws. You may hide your flaws for only so many years till the child acquires the capability to understand it.
And once they understand it, they dislike the fact that you tried to hide it from them for so long. You get frustrated and don’t want to talk about it because you feel ashamed and they get confused and frustrated that you don’t trust them, because they trusted you with everything, and you didn’t trust them with this trivial character flaw and a weird power struggle starts, which really should not have existed in the first place.
What do kids gain when they see our vulnerabilities from the get-go?
On the flip side; have you ever thought what would our kids gain when we let them see our vulnerabilities? Or even better share our vulnerabilities with them? By share I mean talk to them about it, not pass the vulnerability to them.
They get to see the true picture of life, and understand the bitter realities of life, at an early age, this is invaluable and precious.
We can normalize having vulnerabilities, by letting them see ours.
We can discuss with them, how it’s not something we are proud of and how is that we want to change them and how they should try to rise above our vulnerabilities so that they don’t get them.
Basically taking the opposite route! Instead of hiding the vulnerabilities in adults in hopes of saving our kids from developing those vulnerabilities we talk about them so they are in a better position to deal with those vulnerabilities in the society and in themselves.
The fact is our kids have character flaws too. They don’t realize their shortcomings as vulnerabilities in their personality till they are teens; but when they do, it won’t be as difficult for them to deal with it.
Our kids are going to learn it’s okay to err and to not run away from situations.
So, I was at an airport checking out a restaurant’s menu. A young lad in his 20’s stopped by to do the same, he had a cup of coke that he was balancing on a take-out box; the cup fell down and spilled the drink all over the floor. This person’s reaction to this incident was to throw the cup in a trash can nearby and flee from the spot, without any acknowledgments. He was probably in a rush to catch a flight.
But it made me realize; this is what we are doing as a society, and it’s what our kids are learning. To deny mistakes and flee.
We’re not perfect, and that’s all right.
But, we’re scared to introduce this idea to kids, because we fear this will make them un-inspired and un-motivated individuals, and they won’t be successful in life. This is so un-true.
Inspiration and motivation come from seeing the long-lasting effects of choosing the right path, from contentment, and love. What comes from chasing perfection is race, which is not fulfilling for anyone in the long run, not even the winner.
Without spiraling into the philosophy of imperfection; I just have to say, accepting imperfection and modeling it is going to help your kids develop contentment, empathy, and love for everyone.
There is a beautiful extension to acknowledging vulnerabilities and letting our kids see our journey.
Everyone who struggles with vulnerabilities also struggles to overcome them. We all are making efforts to become better than what we were. And when our kids see our struggles they learn that struggle is a part of life, it’s okay and good to have them because it makes us better.
In other words; when we normalize vulnerability we normalize struggle.
And it’s so comforting and encouraging for kids. Because they’re struggling a lot since everything is new for them. They have the patience to go through them, if not patience they definitely develop the courage to go through them and not drop them in the middle.
We adults think, kids don’t have any struggles in their life, since their basic needs are provided for. While in reality, our young years are the most struggling periods of our lives, when everything is new, and we know little and we’re learning all the time.
Dealing with your own flaws is not a piece of cake. There are so many people who spend their entire life first denying their shortcomings, and then denying to deal with them, and then blaming others for it. All because that was what was modeled to them in the beginning.
So, let’s break the taboo. Let’s accept our vulnerabilities, and share our struggles because the way to overcome our short-comings is through them, not around them!