If you have read other articles here at The Art of Fatherhood, you know that Star Wars is a big influence for me. There are moments when I watch the movies in the Star Wars saga and I think about a line or a scene that I can relate to being a dad. One scene that I recently thought about was from The Last Jedi. It is when Rey says the line, “I need to find my place.” Rey is looking not only to become a Jedi, but also learn more about her own identity.
She finds people like Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren that look to assist her in finding her place in the galaxy. I feel like tweens and teenagers are starting that journey of finding their own identity. How can parents be the Jedi mentor for their kids where they create a good balance of being hands off and hands on with their help? Here are some of my thoughts.
Helping Your Kids Find Their Place
One the main goals that I strive as a dad is to make sure my kids can do things on their own. From cooking to managing money to doing their own laundry, my wife and I want to teach our kids life skills that they will need as they get older. Yet, these life skills don’t define who you are. I do feel that part of that self identification journey is made through every day moments, but in middle school and in high school is when kids look to define who they are that go beyond those life skills. You can guide them with your own life experience. It is good to share your own stories, but don’t guide them to where they are just following in your footsteps.
I try to tell my kids to find their own perspective. They can do this by taking in what they have observed from family, friends and teachers. In addition, they also need to listen to themselves through self-reflection. Hearing the inner voice can help identify on who they want to become. I am not just talking about what they want to do for a career, but what type of life to they want. It is important as parents that we offer help when needed, but let them fail. We learn a lot about ourselves when we fail. How do we overcome all the different emotions from a setback? Those lessons become stepping stones to finding our identity.
The Greatest Teacher, Failure Is
Another line from The Last Jedi that connects to this theme is from Yoda. He talks with Luke Skywalker after Luke feels he failed teaching Rey how to become a Jedi. Yoda offers another gem of wisdom, by saying, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” Now we don’t want our kids to fail all the time, just like we don’t want them to succeed all the time. Always succeeding or failing are not going to help with personal growth and identity.
As parents we should balance the amount of guidance we give them. Communication is the best way to see where our kids are at in each stage of their life. As you talk to them you can see how they are finding their identity. You will see their growth that will lead them down the path they need to go on. Eventually they will find their place on their own and pass on what they have learned to the next generation.