Are you living vicariously through your child?

I received a text message from my nephew a few minutes after Fred Matiangi, our Cabinet Secretary for Education announced that the results of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) were out. In the text, my nephew sounded so down as he did not get the marks that he had promised his parents he would get. I tried telling him that I trust he tried his best and that he can always make up for it for it years later in form four. This did nothing to make him feel better and with good reason!

When his parents came back in the evening he was really admonished and they couldn’t wait to rub it in that he had greatly disappointed them with the father asking him how he hoped to become a doctor with such marks.

Well apart from being thoroughly admonished for his performance which was not so bad according to ordinary standards, a career in medicine was being forced down his throat while all he wanted to do was do social work and help the disadvantaged in society. This was something he had already brought up only for it to be shut down as not something that would wave the family’s flag.

Mother and daughter

So many of us have been victims of such parenting where decisions were made for us without anybody bothering to enquire how we felt about them. There are instances where we were pushed into careers that did not hold our interests, take up a particular sport or forced to marry from certain families and ethnic backgrounds just to live up to our parents’ expectations.

While some of us accepted it and moved on others did not and this has caused resentment towards their parents to the extent that they do not talk to them anymore. This is mostly because their parents’ actions have also messed their lives in grave ways.

Are you a parent living vicariously through your child? It happens in so many families especially with parents who never achieved what they wanted in their own lives or are competing with the Joneses.

Here are the warning signs that you are living vicariously through your child and that you need to stop!

  1. You are more passionate about his performances in sports and other activities and treat it as a matter of life and death while they enjoy or just treat it as a hobby.
  2. Parents that participate in every aspect of their child are in this category as well.
  3. Have you realized that you do not have a life outside what your child does?
  4. You force your child to participate in activities that do not interest them at all arguing that they will earn them much money in future, open doors career-wise or help to put the family name on the global, national arena and so on.
  5. Do you get really upset when your child fails in something or loses when playing a game? Do you cry more than the bereaved in such cases? Then you are living vicariously through your child. The funny thing is that your child may have been handling such situations so well until you came along and started to make such a big deal out of them, causing them such pain and anxiety instead of just mild disappointment and moving on to other things.

So now that you have realized that you are living through your child, how can you turn the situation around and let them live their own life?

Here are a few tips to help you,

  1. Set your own goals

If you want to want your child to have fun and live their life while experiencing unconditional love, you should start by having your own goals. Being fixated on achieving your goals will help you also give them space to set and achieve theirs with your guidance. Having your own goals will also help you set a good example for your child who will emulate you as you strive towards them, fail, start again and eventually succeed in them.

  1. Deal with your failures and inadequacies

All of us have some sort of shortcoming or goals that could not and will never achieve for one reason or another. Yeah, life is never black and white and sometimes things just go wrong despite our best intentions. In such instances, you should just come to grips with it and start getting over it.

So you never made it to the national team, never went to the country that you wanted or never achieved your doctorate. Forget about it and set new goals but do not take it out on your poor child.

  1. Find a hobby for both of you

This, I think, is a very good idea because you will start at the bottom with your child and together you will experience the challenges and sense of achievement together. You will learn to appreciate how she feels and vice versa. This will help reduce the stress of you having to live vicariously through your child as well.

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