Audrey was a happy go lucky child with a vivid imagination and loved making other people happy. She had dreams and talents galore-or at least she thought she did. As she grew up, she began to focus on the things she liked most. She wanted to be a cheerleader more than anything. She knew she was naturally enthusiastic and could engage the crowd during sports events at her small-town high school. She was excited to try out. However, when she told her parents her plans and asked permission, the answer was an emphatic NO. Her parents told her to join the choir instead. That’s where she would have better experiences, develop character, and be around better people. Audrey was heartbroken to have her dream crushed so quickly, but she had to be involved in something, so she joined the choir as her parents directed. She enjoyed it, but she wasn’t naturally gifted and didn’t like it enough to work at developing her voice, so she didn’t get very far. As she went through her high school years singing in the second best choir, she always wished she had been at least able to try for her dream of being a cheerleader. It stung that she wasn’t even allowed to try.
Emily was a very introspective child. Some would call her shy, but she didn’t like that label. She was just quiet, felt better in the background observing, and thought deeply about things, even at a young age. Because of genetic disposition and all the stress she was under in a difficult family situation, her body began to put on weight as she grew into her teen years. This worried her mother, who put her on diet after diet, encouraging her to be thin. Emily’s mom even went on the diets with her to encourage her, although she was naturally tall and slender. Emily began to feel worse and worse about herself because her body wasn’t responding, and her mom was hovering over everything she ate. She went further inward and began feeling more stress at school, and her grades dropped. She slipped into depression and wanted to be around no one. Her mom tried to help, but it wasn’t helping.
What do these two stories have in common? The Rope of Good Intention. In both stories, the parents were doing what they thought was best. In Audrey’s case, her parents were worried about the influences she would face being a cheerleader. Because of their fears, they wouldn’t let her try for her dream. They held her back with their Rope of Good Intention. In Emily’s case, her mother was afraid she wouldn’t be healthy and was afraid of what other people would think if her daughter was overweight. She was pushy, and Emily felt like her mom’s love was based on what her body looked like. Emily’s mom was yanking her around with the Rope of Good intention through all the dieting and forceful encouragement. Both parents wanted what they thought was best for their children, but were not tuning in with love to their real needs.
The Rope of Good Intention is a tool that parents don’t even realize they are using. Every parent wants what’s best for their child. But sometimes, what’s best for the parent sneaks in, and we see things from our own perspective, and not what’s best for our child. With the myriad of choices and opportunities for our children these days, it can be tempting to micromanage their lives and direct their activities because we really want them to get ahead and succeed.
We may also step into the trap of wanting our children to be perfect so we feel good about ourselves. We put a proverbial Rope of Good Intention around our child when we put our will onto them in a forceful or selfish manner-and most of the time this is done unconsciously, with good intentions. We truly want what’s best for our children, but when we misuse our authority and force, cajole, manipulate, control, or micromanage the lives of our children, we hold them back with the rope of our good intention.
Let’s go back to our first two examples:
Audrey really wanted to be a cheerleader. Her fun, enthusiastic attitude would have been a great fit for this. Her parents may have made the decision for her based on their fears that Audrey wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure, or that the other kids in sports and cheer would be a bad influence. In this case, the parents would benefit from examining why it bothers them for her to be a cheerleader. I experienced a similar scenario with my daughter wanting to participate in drama in high school. I was angry and didn’t want to go to her performances. I would sit through the entire event clenching my fists and not enjoying a single moment. As I examined my fears, I understood what was going on beneath the surface that made me feel it was dangerous for her. I worked on myself-then was able to support her in doing the things she loved. Audrey’s parents may have benefitted from doing the same-letting go of their fears that were holding her back with the rope of good intention.
Now if Audrey’s parents just had a gut feeling cheerleading wasn’t right for her and wanted to trust that instinct, they could have lovingly expressed that and openly discussed it with her. Then the three of them could explore other avenues for her to share her enthusiasm and have fun.
In Emily’s case, she would benefit from being healthy and losing weight. But the problem was the way her mother approached the situation, making Emily feel bad because she wasn’t thin enough-or good enough. Her mom did do the diets with her, but it didn’t make Emily feel any better because she felt she wasn’t acceptable until she pleased her mom with losing the weight. If Emily had felt supported and loved, her body may have responded better because there was less stress surrounding the situation, but Emily needed to know it wasn’t about her body. Her mom could let go of the rope of good intention by making an effort to love Emily for who she is and being there for her, understanding her difficulties and working together in love and acceptance.
As parents, we get to teach and raise our children to be responsible, contributing members of society. Removing the Rope of Good Intention and replacing it with love, understanding, and working together to find solutions will help our children be confident, capable, and happy adults who want to contribute for good.
Releasing the Rope of Good Intention will also heal relationships as the force holding the rope is let go, and love is let in. Next week I will share more ideas of how to let the love in.