Yesterday I listened to a radio show about parenting, specifically how we can best raise successful children.
There were many points of view, but Author Elizabeth Lesser’s perspective was the most illuminating. She described “two sides” of parenting, both vitally important for the successful development of a child. She described each side as a wing, because if used together they allow our children to fly.
This resonated deeply, and I felt compelled to share my interpretation of her message.
The first wing is boundaries and structure. We hear this all the time, but what does this really mean?
It means keeping your children safe and teaching them how to function within a society.
It means setting limits and keeping up your end of the bargain instead of giving in because it’s easier. It means teaching your children to take care of themselves so they can give instead of just take.
Boundaries and structure are necessary to become a productive member of community, to understand how to organize a day, to respect authority, and to work for the common good.
And most important, boundaries and structure offer an innate sense of safety, an understanding that life has a somewhat predictable “flow”, that stability is a lot more common than chaos.
The second wing is about seeing and accepting who your children are and reflecting back what you see. It’s about appreciating their individuality, their special gifts, their way of being, and teaching them to embrace this as their beauty.
It’s about guiding them on their journey – not steering or assuming, but supporting them as they discover what brings them joy. It’s about helping them find their inner voice and teaching them to trust what they hear.
The two wings may appear to be in opposition, but in reality they are perfect partners. Real challenges occur when one is without the other.
All boundaries and structure with no nurturing of individuality can lead to blind conformity, and sole focus on self awareness without teaching limits and respect for others can lead to narcissism.
But as balanced partners they are powerful. Together they form a philosophy that allows children to embrace a life of purpose and meaning, a commitment to giving and an ability to form a connection to self, others, and the universe.
To me, there is no better definition of success.