Who Do You Think You Are? Why Identity Matters in Parenting
Updated: May 14, 2021
Identity forms how we think about ourselves, how we interact with people and how we make decisions. We all want the best outcome for our kids and that starts with a solid identity. This identity is the foundation our kids will stand on when storms of peer pressure, heart break, stress and struggle hit them from all sides. Kids without this strong foundation may not fare these storms very well.
We can help shape our child’s identity in a variety of ways: nurturing their interests, encouraging them to try new activities and be part of different groups to see what feels natural and best for them, teaching them where they come from as far as their cultural identity, their extended family and their ancestry. We can also talk about their different roles as a child, sibling, friend, cousin, etc. and how that role fits into and helps shape the greater community and world around them.
But perhaps the biggest effect we can have in teaching our children about identity is modeling a secure identity in ourselves. Below I outline how to do just that.
Step 1 - Define Your Core Values
First, let’s start by meditating on our core values. Thanks to the great pandemic of 2020, I realized that my highest priority and core value is family. The realization came after staying at home with my two kids, husband and dog for ten months and counting and realizing that I love it. I wasn’t able to work, wasn’t able to see friends, wasn’t really able to do much of anything, like most everybody else. But I loved it. Prior to the pandemic I could not have pictured this. All I wanted to do was work. The level of joy I got solely from my family surprised even me. If you’re not sure what you value the most, look at what you spend the most money on. Is it outings and adventures? Maybe you value experiences or friendships. Is it groceries? That’s me. I value feeding my family well and putting love into every meal. Again, core value = family. How about clothes? Makeup? Maybe you value self care. Whatever it is, don’t judge. Just accept it as part of you and your newly forming identity.
Step 2 - Outline Your Goals and Dreams
What do you want out of this life? Do you have big dreams? Or are you content just snuggling up with your favorite person and binging Netflix? Ask yourself what your goals say about you. Maybe you’re artistic. Maybe you’re a dreamer. Maybe you’re practical and business-minded. Whatever it is, it’s great because it’s you.
Step 3 - Define Your Roles
List all of your roles. Start with the obvious ones like wife, mother, daughter, sister, etc. Then branch out a little. Who are you to your next door neighbor? Confidant? Friend? Define as many roles as you can and start to think about where you fit within each of the groups those roles belong to. Where do you fit within your family? Your community? Your social circle? Start to look at your relationships. What type of people do you gravitate toward? And why do you think you gravitate toward those types of people? Also, how do they treat you? It’s important to think about how you are treated. If you are allowing any type of abuse, neglect or demeaning behavior it may be worth looking further into why you feel you deserve that type of treatment. On the reverse, if you are constantly in relationships with people who put you on a pedestal, ask yourself if you need this type of affirmation and why. However, if your loved ones are simply elevating you for some good old fashioned encouragement and support, that’s something totally different. Go ahead and soak in all the love. You deserve it!
Step 4 - List Your Passions and Heartbreaks
What breaks your heart? What would you like to see changed in this world, or even in your own community? Figuring this out could not only shed light on your core values and beliefs, but it could also point you toward a greater calling, something you are uniquely suited to fight against in this world. Win-win.
Step 5 - Shatter Limiting Beliefs
What beliefs do you hold about yourself, your family and the world that may be holding you back? I know, that’s a big question. It may not be as easy to pinpoint as some of the others. But it’s a good one. It will help accelerate you toward your goals and dreams and will also give you major peace of mind and security in your identity. If you’re unsure of where to begin, check out my article: Mom-Bod: What does it mean to you? In it, I talk a lot about my own limiting beliefs with my body and how I shattered them by writing them out one by one. After writing a list of all my limiting beliefs, I crossed them out and wrote a new list, a list entitled, “What would be possible if I no longer believed these things?” Realizing the possibilities helped me to kill those beliefs once and for all and finally allow me to make the physical changes and progress I had been yearning for my whole life.
We’ve all heard the saying, “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Well if you don’t know who you are, your yeses and nos will be all over the place. If you know that your deepest core value is marriage, then saying no to a social invitation on the same day as your hard-scheduled weekly date night will be a no-brainer. To use myself as an example, taking almost a year off of acting (my one true love) would hurt deeply if it wasn’t for the fact that I know my deepest core value is family. Not only will giving priority to your identity give you peace of mind, it will create a foundation and a model for your kids. My hope and prayer for my kids is that they will be so rooted and grounded in their identity that they will side-step many, if not all, of the pitfalls I fell for so they can far surpass me and my accomplishments when they get to my age. If they can achieve that, the sky's the limit! I hope and pray the same for your kids. Let’s get them fully equipped to change the world. What do you say?