Have you read countless parenting books on how to GET your child to behave. Have you been taught how to control her, how to manipulate her to do what you think is best all in the name of being a good parent. She needs limits, she needs boundaries, she needs to hear NO…you’ve heard so much about what you need to do to her but what about you?
Where are you in the picture?
I remember feeling this way when I first started my parenting journey. No matter how hard I tried to follow the parenting suggestions, I would find myself yelling, controlling, using rewards and punishment and then feeling guilt and shame for losing my connection with my daughter. I was as sincere as they come. I would have done anything, and I have, to create a loving home filled with harmony and grace.
When I finally realized that I was the one who was struggling and turned the light back on my behavior things began to drastically change. I began to notice that my daughter was fine as long as I was fine. I noticed that when I was stressed and impatient she got stressed and defiant. ( mirror neurons)
Over time I became aware of how important my regulation was for her. Instead of trying to control her behavior I began to really take notice of what was going on inside me. Shifting the focus from external to internal took time. I thought I was supposed to focus on her but what I forgot is that my perception was all about me. Until I could see clearly what was happening in me I couldn’t really see what was happening in her.
Learning to sit with my discomfort, own my feelings and really find my sanctuary inside was critical and it was hard to find. I’d been trained to believe that she was the cause of my discomfort and being a “good” parent meant controlling her. All the books said so! Actually, it is the opposite. Your discomfort is yours and you have the power and presence to be with YOU!
Once you have moved back into a place of peace then you can truly see your child and the innocence of their behavior. Then you can offer understanding, love and connection. It is amazing to see how quickly a negative behavior will vanish in the face of love!
Step to follow when feeling discomfort:
- Recognize the feeling is inside you and know your child is not the cause
- Turn your focus internal instead of outward
- Take a deep breath and ignore the behavior unless danger is involved
- Put your hand on your heart
- Love what is going on inside you
- Soothe, soothe, soothe
- Once regulated then make a loving connection with your child
It’s really all about us, isn’t it?
Our little ones are doing what comes naturally to them, and it’s our beliefs and assumptions that make their actions “wrong”. If we can learn to let go and let them be, we’ll all be so much better off.
As well, babies are mirrors. If we harbour resentment towards them about their behaviour, they’re going to notice it, and begin reflecting it back to us. It can cause a dangerous cycle of negativity.
Great comment Dave…Thanks for sharing.
This is a nice post. I agree that understanding the self is very important for everyone, but especially those charged with teaching and leading — which are parents. However, I think that parents ought to feel the need to teach and lead, rather than letting children drift. I know you’re not advocating a drifting, guide-less child, but I think that some parents misinterpret letting go of negative behaviour to mean let anything go. In reality, through your strength as an aware, generous, accepting parent you are developing your child. You are still a strong example and teacher, but the lessons come naturally instead over-relying on explicit guidance as though we had to give children a book of policies and procedures to follow.
Correct me if I’m wrong!
By the way, I recently spoke with someone about parenting their children, and one thing which stuck in my mind very brightly was his statement that he “just wants his kids to be happy.” That sounds off. I want my kids to be happy too, but I want them to be happy because they are a fountain of happiness to themselves and others. Therefore I focus on building that fountain instead of splashing happy juice on the kids. Just thought of that as I was reading your piece and wanted to write it down. Thanks!