Ego and parenting

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 

– Kahlil Gibran

More than ever before, there now seems to be greater awareness about the ways in which an unchecked ego can create havoc in our lives. When we strive to remain conscious, we can utilize our inner observer to keep ego in check.

There are times, however, when ego’s reaction is so strong and so swift it is as if the observer gets knocked out, perhaps not regaining consciousness for hours, days or even much longer regarding that particular situation. This is most likely to happen in our closest relationships.

One area where unconsciousness can show up in an otherwise evolving individual is parenting. When a child is born, this new soul comes into this world to make its own particular journey. Parents, of course, are a very important part of this journey, but it is not as much about them as they would like to think.

When people become parents, or sometimes even during the pregnancy, a couple begins to have visions for their child and, early on, they begin to shape the child according to their wishes and aspirations.

As the child grows, the parents’ egos become very satisfied to the extent that the child’s behaviour and ways of being are in alignment with what the parents want for the child. If the child does not live up to parental expectations, there is often dissatisfaction, frustration, disappointment and even anger. If the parents’ egos are in full swing, they see the child as a reflection of themselves. They redouble their efforts to make the child “look good.” I am reminded of a friend who, years ago, when her five-year-old daughter had dressed herself in a most “creative” ensemble, told the child that no daughter of hers would go out of the house looking like that!

As the child gets older, the involvement of parental egos may intensify. If the dad wants his son to be a hockey star, he can be hard on the child when he does not perform well. If the parents want their child to be an academic star, they may, when presented with a mark of 80 percent, ask why it was not higher.

An unaware ego can be very determined to get its way. It can “know” which career path is best for a child, despite the child’s differing interests and protestations. This causes the young person to surrender and follow the career path that will please the parents, or go her own way and live with guilt and a feeling of letting down her parents, or become immobilized and depressed and do nothing.

Ego can also do serious damage to the parent/child relationship when it has a strong negative reaction to the child’s choice of life partner. Once again, the child can be made to feel guilty for following his or her own heart and true path.

To honour the souls of children, parents need to strive to maintain awareness of ego and when it is trying to satisfy itself through the child. It is helpful to think of the child as a plant that begins as a seed, with all of its potential and characteristics already locked inside. It needs only proper care, loving nurturing and attentiveness in order to blossom fully into its natural beauty.

As children grow, I think asking them more questions is more important than what we tell them. Ask them what they think, what they like and what they want to be when they grow up. When they are older, ask what inspires them, what they are passionate about, what gives their life meaning and what they would like to be remembered for.

As parents, our job is to give children good roots, but they must find their own wings and fly where their spirit leads them.

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practice and author ofGrowing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For articles and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit

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