What does it mean to be a parent who dares greatly?

I recently read Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly. It was a powerful book full of lessons encouraging us to have the courage to be vulnerable and transform the way we live, love, parent and lead. If you are not familiar with Brené Brown, she calls herself a researcher and story-teller. She has dedicated her life to learning about shame and vulnerability and how they impact the way we show up in the world. She has many YouTube videos and she is quite entertaining to listen to.

Brené has started a movement that is encouraging all of us, no matter our title, position or education to be willing to stop judging others, show empathy, live in gratitude and humanize work and education. She says, “a leader is anyone who holds her-or himself accountable for finding potential in people and process.”  In my mind, we are all leaders!

As a parent, you are the leader of your family – some may say, the CEO! As any good leader will tell you, their job is to keep the ship moving in the right direction by providing leadership that inspires individuals to grow and perform at their highest potential. I believe that is the same role we have as parents. Not to determine, decide, protect or contrive our children’s future but to walk alongside them providing love, a sense of belonging and a safe, secure environment. Brown writes, “Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.”

I don’t know about you, but when I became a parent, I wanted the color-coded ‘how-to book’. While there are millions of books and blogs on parenting, every parent does it their own way. Which then leads to this idea that I am doing it the right way and you are doing it the wrong way or the real scary thought… that you are doing it right and I am doing it wrong! The parent shaming world is relentless! As Brown says, “Parenting is a shame and judgement minefield precisely because most of us are wading through uncertainty and self-doubt when it comes raising our children.”

In terms of teaching our children to dare greatly in a “never enough” culture, the question isn’t so much “Are you parenting the right way?” as it is: “Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?” I had no idea that becoming a parent meant that I was going to grow, learn and change as much as my child did! The bottom line is that if we want our children to love and accept who they are, our job is to love and respect who we are. That means that we need to be vulnerable and share our journey with our children, giving up the idea that we are perfect – whatever your definition of that may be. We need to examine our values, parent from a place of “enough” rather than scarcity and practice those values so that our children experience them versus only hear about them. This creates compassion and connection which is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.

This book is full of wisdom and I am not even scratching the surface of all it entails and I would encourage you to pick it up. Because my work focuses on parenting, I will leave you with some practical ways to dare greatly on your parenting journey:

  • Tend to your own worthiness – feel good about your choices so you don’t feel the need to judge or attack others.
  • Be present with your children – put down the phone, the computer and play, read, talk and cuddle them.
  • Stop criticizing yourself, your children and others – shame rewires the brain in a negative way and is linked to the fear of being unlovable.
  • Build shame resiliency in your children because the world can be cruel.
  • Show them they belong by lighting up every time they walk in the room. Belonging is being accepted for you, and it is unconditional.
  • Empathize with your child’s discomfort, disappointment, sadness – don’t try to fix it or minimize it.
  • Practice gratitude – writing or saying what you are thankful for each day. This is a wonderful practice to do with your children.

There is no perfect way to be a parent so all you have to do is be a real one. Being a parent is full of ups and downs and no one does it perfectly. Take the pressure off of yourself and know that life is going to be messy. I will leave you will one final quote from Brené “To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”