Birthday parenting? What does that mean?! Okay, let me tell you, because this is some really good symbolism.

So this week, Lily and I went to the mall to shop for a birthday gift for one of her friends, who we’ll call Sally. She picked a couple things and I said, “is that something YOU would like, or something SALLY would like?” After some introspection, Lily got into Freaky Friday mode and did a personality and perspective shift, almost as though she were becoming Sally like a character in a play, and picked out some things that truly suited Sally’s style rather than her own.

This is what I call birthday parenting: taking on your child’s personality as though you’re shopping for the perfect birthday gift. This can help you understand their thoughts and feelings, what makes them happy, what their triggers are, why they have tricky emotions, and what those tricky emotions are. It’s like baby-proofing the house, where you have to crawl around on the floor to see things the way a baby sees them and recognize potential hazards to baby-proof.

Too often we fall into the trap of assuming our children are going to be just like us — or worse yet, purposefully attempting to compel them into developing the same way we developed (see episode 112, Clone Parenting). Let’s nip that idea in the bud right now. We should not labor under the delusion that our life is good enough that we would even want our child to follow in our footsteps!

Children are like trees; we need to give them the metaphorical equivalents of sunlight, water, nutrients, and space to grow and develop their individual Self. One big way of helping them develop their inner Self is by allowing them to experience and process the 50/50, the good and the bad, without telling them how to feel or process it. As you practice “birthday parenting” and try to adopt your child’s mindset in order to understand and empathize with them, you will find patience and compassion for your child (and for yourself!) that you didn’t know you had. You’ve got this!

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