Are you looking for new parenting strategies to get your kids to behave? I often come across this common theme when working with others, as well as in my own life. Rather than speaking as an expert, I believe that each individual is the expert of themselves. So, in Purejoy, my aim is to guide you and provide little sparks of inspiration for you to explore on your own. After all, I can’t have all the answers for your unique situation when I’m not there with you 24/7.
One common pattern I’ve noticed, which I experienced early on and have heard from many other parents, is that when we feel uncomfortable with our children’s behavior, we tend to seek external strategies to control their actions in order to find inner calm. We all desire a peaceful home, but what we truly seek is peace within ourselves so that we can navigate whatever arises in our home environment.
However, we often confuse this and believe that we must control the external factors. And when we inevitably fail to do so, we feel guilty and may lash out at our children, leading to a collapse in our own emotional state. One aspect of this collapse is the guilt that turns into self-aggression, as our attempts at control prove ineffective. At this point, we must confront the reality of our powerlessness over the external factors. But fear not, for there is a way out. The answer lies within.
We are constantly looking outside ourselves, but the truth is that our children’s behavior is not the root cause of our internal disturbances. When we feel disturbed, our minds start generating thoughts and strategies to regain control. We may think of consequences, punishments, or various techniques to manipulate the external environment and create a sense of peace. However, here’s a little secret: no matter what you do or say, even if you remain calm, your children can sense your true emotions and discomfort. It’s essential to understand this. They feel it, and when you project your discomfort onto them, they experience it as well and then act it out.
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned, and I encourage you to try it this week and see for yourself, is to recognize when I am disturbed. I used to experience frequent disturbances due to my beliefs and expectations about how things should be—for my child and myself as a mother. There were countless “shoulds” in my mind. Instead of meeting the present moment and acknowledging my disturbance, I would often externalize it. Many people come to this work seeking to turn inward, but they still find themselves searching for strategies.
When these strategies fail to bring about the desired change in their children’s behavior, they collapse and conclude that it doesn’t work. However, the real issue lies in the belief that your internal disturbance is solely caused by external factors. I’m not saying that the external doesn’t trigger your disturbance—it does. But that internal disturbance is often rooted in the fantasy of how you think things should be for you to feel safe and okay. I spent a significant portion of my life trying to create a calm and perfect external environment, which is an impossible task. So, when disruptive elements entered my life, such as my daughter’s behavior, I believed I had the power to change it. I would either exert control over her or blame myself for my perceived failure. Then, I would search for more strategies, as I needed her behavior to align with my expectations in order for me to feel inner peace.
In Purejoy, we recognize the challenge presented by our child’s behavior instead of trying to control, fix, or change it. We acknowledge the disturbance within ourselves and take it to our SafeSeat. If you haven’t already, I have a free copy of a five-day video series on the SafeSeat available on the website. When I refer to the Safeseat, that’s what I’m talking about. By sitting with the emotions that arise—typically feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, rejection, or abandonment—and offering kindness to these feelings, you can begin to separate yourself from them. You are not defined by your emotions. You possess the power to turn inward and be compassionate with yourself.
You may not have control over your child’s behavior, except when you resort to fear tactics. However, you can utilize the power you do have to turn inward and extend kindness to yourself. Remember, no matter what strategies you employ or what you say to your kids, your true emotions will be felt by them. So, let’s focus on you finding peace within yourself.