Parenting is an important job.
Parenting is the most important job on the planet. We all know this, yet many of us are not as equipped for it as we could be. In fact, it takes more to get a driver’s license than to be a parent.
Of the myriad ways we can contribute to society, raising a whole, healthy and happy child is one of life’s greatest contributions. However, trying to parent absent of any coherent parental modeling of our own leaves many of us doing what our own parents did – with results that may leave much to be desired. Most people begin their parenting journeys vowing to do things differently. We tell ourselves, “I will never be my mother,” or “I will never be my father.” As the old saying goes, what you resist persists. If you tell yourself that you will never be your mother or your father, guess what?
You will be.
The only way to circumvent this eventuality is to accept this fact: you are indeed your parents and 50% of each parents’ DNA is yours. You orbited around them for at least eighteen years soaking up their actions – and their reactions in various situations. What is helpful is to allow yourself to recognize you are your parent and to accept it. You are also imbued with the power to change your parents’ behavior or characteristics you do not like. You also have the power to keep anything of your parent within you that you do like. This allowance is the polar opposite of resistance. If what you resist persists, what you allow desists. Unless parents get some instruction, when push comes to shove and things get stressful, the only thing they know to do is what they saw their own parents do. For instance, it is always helpful to separate a child from their behavior. This is one simple way to avoid shame. If they make a mistake or ignore a directive it is not helpful to tell them that they are ‘bad’. “I love you and I think you are a great kid and I have a real problem with this behavior. It just is not acceptable” is a much better response.
TRUTH, PROTECTION & LOVE
Children need three things to thrive: truth, protection, and love
– and not necessarily in that order. If you keep this trifecta in mind, it is easier to succeed as a parent. Children need to know that when they ask their parents a question, they will get an answer they can count on. The answers do not need to go into great depth. They can be age appropriate. When a child expresses a feeling, think twice before responding with “You do not need to feel that way,” or “Don’t be scared, there is nothing to be scared of.” This tells the child that they cannot trust their feelings or worse – it is wrong to have them at all. Allowing them to express their feelings is a great gift, whatever the feelings are. Anger, fear, jealousy, or hurt – these are very real and to acknowledge in the moment that you hear them is stellar parenting.
In order to do this, parents need to be present, to be engaged. I am not talking about being together while everyone is occupied with their own separate computer device. In this busy work-a-day world, it is difficult at best to take the time to check in with your children to see how their day went. It is, however, what they remember. Not what you bought them, or where you took them, but how you heard them and how you listened to them.
It is natural that sometimes parents have a difficult time hearing their children’s feelings because it brings up and triggers memories of difficult experiences from their own childhoods. If this happens, get some help. Work through your own issues with your feelings and you will be able to help your children through their feelings. It is an undisputed fact: if you do not work on your own childhood issues and their attendant negative feelings and beliefs, you just put all of it in a big box and hand it to your children for them to deal with. Instead, you can create the opposite…if you work on your own childhood issues, your children will not have to repeat them.
You heal for yourself and the next generation.