Parents who see their children as coming from them but belonging to the world of tomorrow understand their role in launching a separate life which they can witness but can’t ever fully enter, not even in their dreams.

One of the greatest gift parents can give their children is the awareness that they are only a launching point in their lives. The meta-message of that teaching is simply that the concessions they must make to fit in are only the beginning of a work in progress. A work they will continue all of their lives. These compromises involve adopting and integrating parental beliefs, demands, values and imperatives that ultimately transform into mental models. These eventually come to define for them “who they are” and what the world is like. In our transactions with the world, we develop habits to support our mental models and as a consequence change becomes more difficult. Over time, we create an integrated system designed to reinforce what we have already learned to believe by developing habits that trick us into thinking that we have fewer options than we actually do. In short, our habits keep us from straying too far from our early learning and reward us with an “at home” feeling when we cease to be curious about our truer selves.

No parent, no matter how loving, can ever fully escape the “ghosts” of their own past. But, those who are willing to agonize about the right thing to do, offer their children an opportunity to learn something vital to their own future. Not knowing what to do can mean that you are taking the full implications of your decisions into account. When you look at things from different points of view–your beliefs, your child’s experience, etc.–you are likely to make better decisions than when dogmatic certainty guides your actions. If your intent is loving and you are willing to suffer the pain of not knowing in the face of ambiguity and still take needed action, then in the long run you may be teaching your child the most important lesson of all: When you don’t know what to do, it is best to broaden your actions and learn to tolerate the discomfort of being uncertain. It short, “do the harder thing.” This learning will put them in a position of evolving their capacity to create their own future by continually broadening their mental models.

Parents who are aware of their children’s separateness, teach them how to engage in the life-long pursuit of forging a path to their truer selves. They have done the harder thing as parents. They have allowed their children to re-discover their inner genius. They deserve to be celebrated for their gift to the world. I salute them this Parents Day.

Tip from Business Success Through Self-Knowledge

Pursuing excellence requires that you commit to reducing the gap between tacit mental models established early in life and your unrealized potential.