Living Vicariously Through Your Kids Could Heal Your Emotional Wounds (Unfortunately, It Will Likely Harm Your Kids)

You’ve likely met at least one parent who lives vicariously through their kids. Maybe you know a dad whose NFL dreams were crushed because of a knee injury. So now, he pushes his son to be the star quarterback.

Or maybe you know a mother who was rejected by the ivy leagues. And now, she’s hiring expensive tutors to help her kids become straight-A students who will get into a prestigious school.

From sports dads to stage moms, many of today’s parents are pushing their kids to succeed. And quite often, they’re trying to get their kids to fulfill the dreams they weren’t able to achieve.

They likely have good intentions. They might think they’re giving their kids a competitive edge or they might insist they’re giving their children opportunities they never had. But, they may be doing more harm than good.

The Upside of Living Vicariously Through Your Kids

Researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands examined what happens to parents who push their kids to live out the dreams they were never able to achieve.

The found that parents who experience unresolved disappointment from the past, feel pride and fulfillment when they can bask in their children’s glory. Watching their child succeed actually helps heal their emotional wounds.  

Many parents see their kids as extensions of themselves. And watching their child do something they couldn’t do reduces their regrets about the past.

The Downside of Pushing Kids To Live Your Dreams

Even though pushing your child to live out the dreams you once held for yourself is helpful to you, it’s bad for your child.

Living vicariously through kids robs them of mental strength in several ways:

  • They struggle to form their own identities. Children need to feel free to develop their own talents, and opinions. If they’re pushed into doing things their parents want them to do without opportunities to explore a variety of interests, they may struggle to figure out who they are and what type of life they want to create.
  • They may be at a higher risk for mental health problems. Kids who are pushed to be perfect are at a higher risk of mental health problems, like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. And they’re usually good at masking their symptoms so their problems often go untreated.
  • They may engage in self-defeating behavior. When parents have expectations that are too high, kids are more likely to sabotage themselves. Too much parental pressure has been linked to binge eating, procrastination, and interpersonal conflict.
  • They are more likely to be chronically dissatisfied. Even if a child succeeds by most standards, growing up in a high-pressure home can cause him to feel like he can’t meet other people’s expectations. Consequently, he may become an adult who–despite his accomplishments–never feels satisfied.

How to Stop Living Through Your Kids

Reliving your old glory days through your kids is just one way to heal your emotional wounds. There are many other ways you can deal with your past regrets or disappointments without harming your kids.

The key to getting over your past is to build mental muscle. The stronger you grow, the better equipped you’ll be to accept the past, enjoy the present, and build a healthy future without negatively affecting your kids.

And remember, mentally strong parents raise mentally strong kids. As you grow stronger, your kids will learn by your example.

Living Vicariously Through Your Kids Could Heal Your Emotional Wounds (Unfortunately, It Will Likely Harm Your Kids)

You’ve likely met at least one parent who lives vicariously through their kids. Maybe you know a dad whose NFL dreams were crushed because of a knee injury. So now, he pushes his son to be the star quarterback.

Or maybe you know a mother who was rejected by the ivy leagues. And now, she’s hiring expensive tutors to help her kids become straight-A students who will get into a prestigious school.

From sports dads to stage moms, many of today’s parents are pushing their kids to succeed. And quite often, they’re trying to get their kids to fulfill the dreams they weren’t able to achieve.

They likely have good intentions. They might think they’re giving their kids a competitive edge or they might insist they’re giving their children opportunities they never had. But, they may be doing more harm than good.

The Upside of Living Vicariously Through Your Kids

Researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands examined what happens to parents who push their kids to live out the dreams they were never able to achieve.

The found that parents who experience unresolved disappointment from the past, feel pride and fulfillment when they can bask in their children’s glory. Watching their child succeed actually helps heal their emotional wounds.  

Many parents see their kids as extensions of themselves. And watching their child do something they couldn’t do reduces their regrets about the past.

The Downside of Pushing Kids To Live Your Dreams

Even though pushing your child to live out the dreams you once held for yourself is helpful to you, it’s bad for your child.

Living vicariously through kids robs them of mental strength in several ways:

  • They struggle to form their own identities. Children need to feel free to develop their own talents, and opinions. If they’re pushed into doing things their parents want them to do without opportunities to explore a variety of interests, they may struggle to figure out who they are and what type of life they want to create.
  • They may be at a higher risk for mental health problems. Kids who are pushed to be perfect are at a higher risk of mental health problems, like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. And they’re usually good at masking their symptoms so their problems often go untreated.
  • They may engage in self-defeating behavior. When parents have expectations that are too high, kids are more likely to sabotage themselves. Too much parental pressure has been linked to binge eating, procrastination, and interpersonal conflict.
  • They are more likely to be chronically dissatisfied. Even if a child succeeds by most standards, growing up in a high-pressure home can cause him to feel like he can’t meet other people’s expectations. Consequently, he may become an adult who–despite his accomplishments–never feels satisfied.

How to Stop Living Through Your Kids

Reliving your old glory days through your kids is just one way to heal your emotional wounds. There are many other ways you can deal with your past regrets or disappointments without harming your kids.

The key to getting over your past is to build mental muscle. The stronger you grow, the better equipped you’ll be to accept the past, enjoy the present, and build a healthy future without negatively affecting your kids.

And remember, mentally strong parents raise mentally strong kids. As you grow stronger, your kids will learn by your example.

3 Steps to Finding People Who’ll Lift Your Potential, According to Award-Winning Harvard Researcher

The people around us matter–a lot, according to happiness researcher Shawn Achor in his new book Big Potential. “The height of your potential is predicted by the people who surround you.”

Achor spent eleven years at Harvard where he lectured in one of the university’s most popular classes on positive psychology. Achor’s TED Talk on the subject of happiness has topped more than 17 million views. In Big Potential, Achor explains how any of us can create a “star system” of people who help us reach our potential.

According to Achor, these three strategies will help boost your motivation, increase your energy, and spark higher levels of performance. They’ve worked for me. 

1. Tap into the power of positive peer pressure.

Just as being around negative, unmotivated people drains our energy and potential, “surrounding ourselves with positive, engaged, motivated, and creative people causes our positivity, engagement, motivation, and creativity to multiply,” according to Achor. 

It’s been said that you’re the average of the five people you hang around the most. There might be something to do that adage. Billionaire Warren Buffett once offered this advice to Columbia University business students: “You want to associate with people who are the kind of person you’d like to be. You’ll move in that direction.” 

Achor brings up an important point–you can associate with super successful people who you don’t know personally. You do it by reading books and biographies of the people you want to be more like. Achor cites fascinating research from Dartmouth and Ohio State that found people who are engrossed in a book actually begin to take on some of the traits and characteristics of the main character.

This reminds me of research I did years ago on Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy. They were voracious readers who were obsessed with real-life heroes and adventurers. Both Kennedy and Churchill cited the books they read in their youth as inspiring their own quest for adventure. 

You are what you read. Fill your mind with true stories of success and achievement.

2. Create balance through variety.

“From evolutionary theory, we know the key to survival is biodiversity,” writes Achor. Diverse species are more resilient to disease and other forces of nature. In the same way, says Achor, people with diverse social networks are more resilient, open-minded, and innovative. 

If you’re surrounded by people just like yourself–culture, backgrounds, experiences, beliefs, attitudes, interests–it limits your potential. Achor stresses the importance of “cognitive diversity.” It’s important to expose yourself to different ideas and perspectives.

This reminds me of the famous quote Steve Jobs gave when asked about the team that made the original Macintosh. Jobs said, “Part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians, poets, and artists, and zoologists, and historians.”

Steve Jobs created balance through variety and the results were world-changing. 

3. Create reciprocal bonds.

“The best relationships are build on reciprocal bonds,” writes Achor. In other words, don’t  reach out to your network only when you need something; make a habit of reaching out to them to offer something with no expectation of anything in return. Research published in the Harvard Business Review found that “the most successful leaders always look for ways to give more to their contacts.”

I’ve discovered this in my own universe of contacts, especially in the past couple of years. I’ve become friends with several CEOs who are admired in their fields for cultivating large networks of strong relationships. I found that they’re givers and don’t ask for something in return. 

For example, I spoke at a conference for top performers at one of America’s largest real estate companies. The CEO learned that I was a fan of the local NFL football team. Weeks after my keynote, the CEO arranged for lunch with a legendary player from the team. He had nothing left to “gain” from our relationship, but he built his reputation as a giver, not a taker.

Achor uses the metaphor of a star and its constellation to explain potential. If you want to be a star, you have to surround your with a constellation of people who give you a “super bounce.” If you want to bounce higher, make a conscious effort to associate with those people who will lift you higher and not drag you down.

3 Steps to Finding People Who’ll Lift Your Potential, According to Award-Winning Harvard Researcher

The people around us matter–a lot, according to happiness researcher Shawn Achor in his new book Big Potential. “The height of your potential is predicted by the people who surround you.”

Achor spent eleven years at Harvard where he lectured in one of the university’s most popular classes on positive psychology. Achor’s TED Talk on the subject of happiness has topped more than 17 million views. In Big Potential, Achor explains how any of us can create a “star system” of people who help us reach our potential.

According to Achor, these three strategies will help boost your motivation, increase your energy, and spark higher levels of performance. They’ve worked for me. 

1. Tap into the power of positive peer pressure.

Just as being around negative, unmotivated people drains our energy and potential, “surrounding ourselves with positive, engaged, motivated, and creative people causes our positivity, engagement, motivation, and creativity to multiply,” according to Achor. 

It’s been said that you’re the average of the five people you hang around the most. There might be something to do that adage. Billionaire Warren Buffett once offered this advice to Columbia University business students: “You want to associate with people who are the kind of person you’d like to be. You’ll move in that direction.” 

Achor brings up an important point–you can associate with super successful people who you don’t know personally. You do it by reading books and biographies of the people you want to be more like. Achor cites fascinating research from Dartmouth and Ohio State that found people who are engrossed in a book actually begin to take on some of the traits and characteristics of the main character.

This reminds me of research I did years ago on Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy. They were voracious readers who were obsessed with real-life heroes and adventurers. Both Kennedy and Churchill cited the books they read in their youth as inspiring their own quest for adventure. 

You are what you read. Fill your mind with true stories of success and achievement.

2. Create balance through variety.

“From evolutionary theory, we know the key to survival is biodiversity,” writes Achor. Diverse species are more resilient to disease and other forces of nature. In the same way, says Achor, people with diverse social networks are more resilient, open-minded, and innovative. 

If you’re surrounded by people just like yourself–culture, backgrounds, experiences, beliefs, attitudes, interests–it limits your potential. Achor stresses the importance of “cognitive diversity.” It’s important to expose yourself to different ideas and perspectives.

This reminds me of the famous quote Steve Jobs gave when asked about the team that made the original Macintosh. Jobs said, “Part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians, poets, and artists, and zoologists, and historians.”

Steve Jobs created balance through variety and the results were world-changing. 

3. Create reciprocal bonds.

“The best relationships are build on reciprocal bonds,” writes Achor. In other words, don’t  reach out to your network only when you need something; make a habit of reaching out to them to offer something with no expectation of anything in return. Research published in the Harvard Business Review found that “the most successful leaders always look for ways to give more to their contacts.”

I’ve discovered this in my own universe of contacts, especially in the past couple of years. I’ve become friends with several CEOs who are admired in their fields for cultivating large networks of strong relationships. I found that they’re givers and don’t ask for something in return. 

For example, I spoke at a conference for top performers at one of America’s largest real estate companies. The CEO learned that I was a fan of the local NFL football team. Weeks after my keynote, the CEO arranged for lunch with a legendary player from the team. He had nothing left to “gain” from our relationship, but he built his reputation as a giver, not a taker.

Achor uses the metaphor of a star and its constellation to explain potential. If you want to be a star, you have to surround your with a constellation of people who give you a “super bounce.” If you want to bounce higher, make a conscious effort to associate with those people who will lift you higher and not drag you down.

3 Steps to Finding People Who’ll Lift Your Potential, According to Award-Winning Harvard Researcher

The people around us matter–a lot, according to happiness researcher Shawn Achor in his new book Big Potential. “The height of your potential is predicted by the people who surround you.”

Achor spent eleven years at Harvard where he lectured in one of the university’s most popular classes on positive psychology. Achor’s TED Talk on the subject of happiness has topped more than 17 million views. In Big Potential, Achor explains how any of us can create a “star system” of people who help us reach our potential.

According to Achor, these three strategies will help boost your motivation, increase your energy, and spark higher levels of performance. They’ve worked for me. 

1. Tap into the power of positive peer pressure.

Just as being around negative, unmotivated people drains our energy and potential, “surrounding ourselves with positive, engaged, motivated, and creative people causes our positivity, engagement, motivation, and creativity to multiply,” according to Achor. 

It’s been said that you’re the average of the five people you hang around the most. There might be something to do that adage. Billionaire Warren Buffett once offered this advice to Columbia University business students: “You want to associate with people who are the kind of person you’d like to be. You’ll move in that direction.” 

Achor brings up an important point–you can associate with super successful people who you don’t know personally. You do it by reading books and biographies of the people you want to be more like. Achor cites fascinating research from Dartmouth and Ohio State that found people who are engrossed in a book actually begin to take on some of the traits and characteristics of the main character.

This reminds me of research I did years ago on Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy. They were voracious readers who were obsessed with real-life heroes and adventurers. Both Kennedy and Churchill cited the books they read in their youth as inspiring their own quest for adventure. 

You are what you read. Fill your mind with true stories of success and achievement.

2. Create balance through variety.

“From evolutionary theory, we know the key to survival is biodiversity,” writes Achor. Diverse species are more resilient to disease and other forces of nature. In the same way, says Achor, people with diverse social networks are more resilient, open-minded, and innovative. 

If you’re surrounded by people just like yourself–culture, backgrounds, experiences, beliefs, attitudes, interests–it limits your potential. Achor stresses the importance of “cognitive diversity.” It’s important to expose yourself to different ideas and perspectives.

This reminds me of the famous quote Steve Jobs gave when asked about the team that made the original Macintosh. Jobs said, “Part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians, poets, and artists, and zoologists, and historians.”

Steve Jobs created balance through variety and the results were world-changing. 

3. Create reciprocal bonds.

“The best relationships are build on reciprocal bonds,” writes Achor. In other words, don’t  reach out to your network only when you need something; make a habit of reaching out to them to offer something with no expectation of anything in return. Research published in the Harvard Business Review found that “the most successful leaders always look for ways to give more to their contacts.”

I’ve discovered this in my own universe of contacts, especially in the past couple of years. I’ve become friends with several CEOs who are admired in their fields for cultivating large networks of strong relationships. I found that they’re givers and don’t ask for something in return. 

For example, I spoke at a conference for top performers at one of America’s largest real estate companies. The CEO learned that I was a fan of the local NFL football team. Weeks after my keynote, the CEO arranged for lunch with a legendary player from the team. He had nothing left to “gain” from our relationship, but he built his reputation as a giver, not a taker.

Achor uses the metaphor of a star and its constellation to explain potential. If you want to be a star, you have to surround your with a constellation of people who give you a “super bounce.” If you want to bounce higher, make a conscious effort to associate with those people who will lift you higher and not drag you down.

Everything You Need to Know About Emotional Intelligence (And How You Use It Every Day)

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