Studies show that a direct relationship exists between how accepting people are of others and how accepting they are of themselves. A person who accepts himself as a person is likely to feel a lot of acceptance for others. People who cannot tolerate a lot of things about themselves usually find it difficult to tolerate a lot in others.
A parent needs to ask himself a penetrating question: “How much do I like who I am?”
If the honest answer indicates a lack of acceptance of himself as a person, that parent needs to reexamine his own life to find ways to become more fulfilled from his own achievements. Persons with high self-acceptance and self-regard are generally productive achievers who are using their own talents, who are actualizing their own potential, who accomplish things, who are doers.
Parents who satisfy their own needs through independent productive effort not only accept themselves but also needn’t seek gratification of their needs from the way their children behave. They don’t need their children to turn out in a particular way. People with high self-esteem, resting on a firm foundation of their own independent achievement, are more accepting of their children and the way they behave.
On the other hand, if a parent has few or no sources of satisfaction and self-esteem from his own life and must depend heavily on getting satisfaction from the way others evaluate his children, he is likely to be unaccepting of his children–especially those behaviors that he fears may make him look like a bad parent.
Relying upon this “indirect self-acceptance,” such a parent will need to have his children behave in certain specified ways. And he is more likely to be unaccepting of them and upset with them when they deviate from his blueprint.
Producing “good children”–high achievers in school, socially successful, competent in athletics, and so on–has become a status symbol for many parents. They “need” to be proud of their children; they need their children to behave in a way that will make them look like good parents to others.
In a sense, many parents are using their children to bring themselves a feeling of self-worth and self-esteem. If a parent has no other source of self-worth and self-esteem, which is unhappily true of many parents whose lives are limited to raising “good” children, the stage is set for a dependency on children that makes the parent overanxious and severely needful that the children behave in particular ways.