Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Separation Anxiety – The Parent Guilt Trip


If you have ever had a child display a lack of proper judgment, or will have a child exhibit poor judgment this column is for you. Is it possible to separate our children’s successes and failures from our own sense of self-worth or self-doubt as parents, and even individuals? If you are and have been a committed and loving parent I believe this is a very difficult question to answer with “yes”. A sincere and genuinely dedicated parent takes delight and pride when their children succeed, and frequently blame themselves and feel guilty when their children behaviorally falter. However, I believe there is a time to accept that our children/teenagers/young adults are responsible for their own mistakes, and not always a direct reflection of our own parental failures. That time comes when the children know, and acknowledge, what positive values and appropriate behaviors are expected from them, and they choose not to act on that knowledge.

There are many parents who work years to instill values and ensure that their children grow up to be successful and responsible human beings. Why is it then during that parental process illogical and ill-judged decisions are made by children being raised by wholehearted, resolute & capable parents? There are hundreds of potential legitimate explanations, but if the child is making the inappropriate decision on his or her own, with full knowledge of expected appropriate behaviors taught, it is not always a reflection of the parent. As someone who espouses core values, accountability, and is also a parent, does a time come when I must separate my emotional attachments to my children from the lessons they must learn themselves from their own mistakes? For example, if I put into practice the core values I champion, and I am accountable for my own behaviors, and in turn my child violates the principles I hold true, is it a reflection of me? It does not mean I do not care, or am not concerned about my child, but it does mean I need to understand I am not a shameful person.

It is not necessary, appropriate, nor emotionally healthy to shred ourselves when our children violate the very principles we have taught and exemplified. I understand this is much easier said then done, but it is essential for our own well being as individuals and as parents to maintain a level of emotional stability. The feeling of responsibility always remains, but hopefully not to the point where blaming ourselves results in emotional and physical deterioration. I share this to comfort the many responsible and devout parents who have gone through, or will go through, a mistake made by their own children. All parents experience the conundrum of a child’s mistake and it is devastating, sad, and so incredibly disappointing. We may beat ourselves up for hours in a malaise of frustration and disgruntlement, asking ourselves, what am I doing to myself and what did my child do to me? The answers are, we are emotionally damaging ourselves, and my child did nothing directly to me. It is our choice to allow the mistake made by the child to be an emotionally destructive force in the aftermath of that behavior. The child did not force us to take on that emotional burden. Of course, it does not diminish the potential seriousness of the situation, nor the responsibility as a parent to handle certain aspects related to the circumstance.

Any conscientious parent feels responsible for their children, but we are not responsible for the decisions made by our children that violate the very values we as parents have attempted to instill in them. We do not hang our children out to dry, but they have to discover their own sense of personal responsibility and credibility. Hopefully our children will learn from their mistakes, and I do believe the strength of a family’s core values will persevere in the long run. That strength is essential for the success of our children as future parents, and their commitment to instilling core values and personal accountability in their own children and our grandchildren. It is a challenge for all of us when we experience difficult times with our children, frequently creating self-doubt in ourselves, but it is a challenge that tests the strength our own character and commitment to our own core values. Let us all be confident in knowing we can pass the test.

Humility – How Important Are You?


How do we distinguish between someone who is confident versus egotistical? I find it fascinating how many times ego is used to denigrate others, and as rationale to negate another’s reputation and accomplishments. In addition, blaming someone’s ego is commonly used as an excuse by blamers to lessen their own insecurities and non-accomplishments. Can one have a healthy ego? I believe so. Ego is defined as “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance“. Through the course of our life it is essential to have a healthy sense of those traits to generate personal courage in all aspects of our decision making process. This illustrates a direct correlation between self-confidence and decisiveness.

When does being confident transition to egotism? Confidence is defined as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities and qualities”, and egotism is defined as “the practice of talking and thinking about oneself excessively because of an undue sense of self-importance”. The answer in distinguishing which characteristic one possesses lies in the motivation behind the actions being taken and/or the decisions being made by that person. It is when one’s own sense of self-importance takes precedence over the importance of service to others where egotism prevails. It is this degree of self-importance that has demoralized and deteriorated the very fabric of what is the genuine key to personal fulfillment. That key is the understanding that service to others brings with it a healthy and valuable ego, and a personal fulfillment that is unselfish.

I am not suggesting we neglect ourselves, what I am suggesting is to ensure when we make our decisions they are not hurtful, and not at the expense of those around us. The accelerated societal obsession with personal gain (it’s all about me) has corroded community values, corrupted many in power, and bankrupted our economy. If you have ever associated with a person who thinks the world revolves around them, then you have experienced egotism. It is the comprehension that the world does not revolve around our own agenda that creates a healthy relationship with others both personally and professionally.

What does it mean to be important, and do you perceive yourself as being important? Your degree of genuine importance originates from how important you become to others. It is through our service to those around us that generates a personal foundation of being valued. When our actions result in the betterment of others’ lives, we have initiated being valuable. Can one be important and possess humility? Humility is defined as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness”. How can one have a low view of one’s own importance and be important? Although it appears the two are incongruent, importance and humility can be very synergistic. An individual can become very important, i.e. valuable to others, without having to self-glorify ones accomplishments. You may realize you are important, but understanding the motive for that importance is the key to maintaining humility. Humility is not weakness in character but rather a selfless approach to very effective leadership. Although challenging to be unselfish, the rewards are far more meaningful and enduring.

In the course of my “No Excuse! Leadership” training sessions, humility is a term rarely mentioned when asked, “what are some characteristics of effective leaders?” However when discussed, insight is garnered when one realizes humility by the leader provides a sense of respect and appreciation for the followers. It also demonstrates a genuine respect for individual and group efforts in their successful achievements. Humility is a silent strength of leadership respected and appreciated by those who value their leaders, and value how important the leaders actions and decisions may be in their lives. Three steps practiced to incorporate humility in one’s life are, think more of others than yourself, understand your motivation in service to others, and give credit to those who believe in you when success is achieved. Each day brings with it the opportunity to appreciate those around us, and to enjoy the many blessings we have. Set an example of sincerity, genuineness and selflessness and your importance will be revealed to those you serve.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

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