Did you think that once you had kids you’d instinctively know what to do? LOL. Let’s kick that idea to the curb. I had the belief that parenting is instinctual, that I’d know what to do once my kid was born or once they’re tweens, or once they are teenagers. If the last two blog posts haven’t convinced you otherwise, we don’t. It’s not like once the baby is implanted in our uterus there’s also a computer chip implanted in our head as to how to parent. If anything, what is implanted is our parents way of parenting us, which even if magnificent, shining some consciousness on that style is always helpful. Going into parenting with the idea that “I’ll know what to do” can be quite damaging. Why? The very nature of believing that we should know something that we don’t creates shame. Shame turns us inward and is laden with judgement and self-criticism. We think we’re the only ones yelling and losing our shit and so, boom, we judge and criticize ourselves. When we are mean to ourselves we are more reactive and who suffers? Those very individuals that we’re trying to love. What sort of message is this sending to the our kids? When things aren’t going your way, you yell at someone smaller than you? When you’re stressed, take it out on those around you?
When we are judgmental and hard on ourselves, we are averse to looking for potential places of growth. We shame ourselves for our outbursts or reactivity. This does not facilitate growth or change. We tend to put up our shield of defense and dig deeper into “our way” of doing things instead of asking what’s something else I could do here? We tend to get rigid and defensive. This is not how change happens. When I loosened up and stopped trying to be the perfect mom with the perfect kids, I was able to be a much better mom and, ironically, my kids behaved much better. They are little mirrors of me and, when I was acting poorly, they would act poorly.
Here’s what I’d like us to believe: We are all struggling with parenting and it’s okay. It’s okay if you’re not where you want to be as a parent. It’s okay if you lose your shit. It’s okay if you are reactive. Why? First of all, whats the alternative? Telling ourselves it’s not okay? Well, it just happened so…beating ourselves up for what happened won’t make it not have happened. My coach once said to me: “You can argue with the past but the past always wins”. It happened. Instead, allow yourself to use your ‘parental meltdowns’ as opportunities to learn about yourself. I used to yell a lot as a mom. I’m not proud of that and that’s not the mom I wanted (or want) to be. But, if I spent my time criticizing myself and feeling guilty about my past behaviors, how would that change my present? I did that and it didn’t change my behavior. I would repeat the cycle until I learned to stop wasting my mental energy beating myself up and instead use it to see what I can learn about what’s happening. What can I learn about myself? What happened right before I yelled? What are my triggers and why? Taking care of myself and my own self-regulation will do more to teach my children and influence their behavior than any lecture.
I can not begin to coach you on the best way to parent your child on this webpage or in this blog post. That requires individualized coaching and, while it’s something I do daily with my clients, I can’t do it without hearing of your specific situation. What I can do is give you some questions to ask yourself that will assist you dig into yourself so that you can begin to parent your children in more of a way that you want to:
How am I caring for myself? How strong are my 5 pillars of wellness?
What do I think a good mom does? (Write: A good mom is…)
What do I do well as a parent? What is going well?
What am I doing that I want to change?
When am I critical of my children? Why?
When am I critical of myself? Why?
What leads to disconnection, tears, or arguments in our house?
How do I want to be as a mom?
What sort of relationship do I want with my kids?
When answering any of questions above, it’s important to keep the mind of the compassionate observer. You will get nowhere if you beat yourself up and judge yourself. You will make massive strides when you remind yourself that you’re human, no one is perfect and that you are doing the best you can. When we are so hard on ourselves it shuts us down from growing and changing. When you can be more accepting of yourself, you can make changes that help you and your family.
[tweetshare tweet=”Look at your past behaviors as an opportunity to learn” username=”SusieBarolo”]
Change and growth and healing happens through connection and human relationships. Find parents with whom you can share your less than stellar parenting moments. Allow yourself to be yourself. There will be plenty of times we don’t mother the way we want but begin to forgive ourselves. When we model that we make mistakes, we allow our kids to make mistakes. When we model how to clean up our messes, how to apologize and move on, how to be human, we are teaching our kids how to be forgiving and kind to themselves. Let’s loosen up and allow our kids to be raised in a forgiving, understanding, imperfect home.[tweetshare tweet=”We don’t have to get it right all the time, we don’t even have to get it right most of the time. But we do have to keep trying.” username=”SusieBarolo”]
Parenting is our opportunity to grow. When we look internally and learn about ourselves our kids always benefit.
Footnote: full disclosure here – I found it really hard to write this post about parenting for several reasons. I don’t want you to think that I have it or have ever had it all together. Each day with my children is an opportunity for me to learn about myself and my triggers. Deeper than that though, is the discomfort I have with writing about parenting because of my first marriage with my children’s dad. I know full well that many of you may be in a relationship where your child’s other parent doesn’t share your parenting views. This was my reality for many years and I want to make sure that I don’t paint a picture of ease with any of this. I know how soul-wrenching it can be to firmly believe in one way of interacting with your kids while having to witness them being treated in a completely opposite manner. This happens to many of us if a certain teacher disciplines or acts in certain ways. It’s a different game if it’s your child’s other parent as you have much less control. I understand all too well and send you heaps of compassion and empathy. If you feel this way, please reach out to a coach. Please. Individual hand-holding is needed. My children are in a much better situation now even though they still are parented in a way that breaks my heart for 50% of the time. Start where you are and do what you can. The future is always bright and people are out there to help you. This is how warriors step forward.