The Lost Child
Do you have a child who just don’t turn out the way you had hoped? Does your child fail to accomplish the goals that you know he or she is capable of, and for the life of you, you just can’t figure out where you went wrong?
Most likely you have examined your life and you know you weren’t perfect, but your parenting techniques worked fairly well with the other kids in your household. You may even have had a child who excelled and was at the top of his class. This further confuses you because you have compared your parenting skills and you know that you handled both children in similar ways.
I have good and bad news for you. The bad news is that there were probably some mistakes you made that contributed to your child’s lack of responsibility or identity. The good news is that parenting is trial and error and each kid is truly different. You couldn’t possibly treat them the same, because they aren’t the same. There may have been times that you made choices that were actually better for “the lost child” and yet it seemed to have no impact.
The reality is that children oftentimes have inherited personality characteristics from earlier generations that play into their sense of identity. They may have been born with an addictive personality, a predisposition for depression, low self-esteem, or poor impulse control. They may not have the drive to make As and Bs, to go to college, to work for a living, or to find a niche in society that works for them.
How do you guide them down the right path? Much of that depends on their age and circumstance. If you have a child who is having difficulties and they are elementary or middle school-aged, it will be important for you to seek professional guidance if they seem “lost”. More than likely, you have already exhausted your list of things to do to get a child motivated.
If they are ages 13-18, the major interventions are to encourage any effort the child makes to do the right thing. Noticing the effort reinforces positive behavior and it provides the foundation for success. Don’t get discouraged when they show some promise and then fall short of displaying that behavior again. It’s all part of their process. Secondly, you must create consequences that fit the misbehavior. Be consistent. Don’t give them a consequence for one infraction and let them slide the next time. Thirdly, be creative. Employ every adult who has significant contact with your child to reach out and take an active part in their life. Whenever you use the team approach you have increased your chances for successful intervention.
No matter what age, many children will eventually figure life out and stop sabotaging themselves. They may indeed never turn our to live up to what you consider to be their potential, but they live a life that is comfortable for them.
It may feel heartbreaking to watch them merely exist as opposed to excel, but parents can only guide their children—they can’t do it for them. It’s important for you to have the courage to set the stage and let go of the concept that your “lost” child is a reflection of your parenting. If you know in your heart that you did the best you could, don’t beat yourself up because your child is choosing a different path than you would have liked.