All children need to feel loved, heard and accepted, that is at the core of our children’s needs. When these needs are unfulfilled, children attempt to get their needs met through maladaptive coping strategies which are distasteful and uncomfortable for those around them to tolerate.
In this instance where is the work needed? Is it the child that needs fixing? Or is it an adult issue?
Most would say the child needs to work through these issues that are being displayed, but whose responsibility is it to help the child form healthy coping mechanisms? The brain is an experiential organ, we learn, develop and grow through interaction with others and our surroundings, so our experiences shape our world. As children we have very little control over those experiences we are exposed to.
If parents or carers have their own unresolved or unprocessed issues or trauma, which most of us do have, then we are in a constant challenge. Our own unresolved experiences leads to an inflexible parenting approach as we are still reacting with old behavioural patterns, old coping mechanism, perceived through old belief systems that no longer serve us well. If we are reacting from this perspective then we are not really present with our children’s actions and behaviours that are happening in this given moment.
What is a parent to do!!!!
We are criticised for being too soft, for not having strong rules and boundaries, for having rules that are too harsh! We are criticised for being too over protective and also for not caring enough. Criticism comes from all directions. It comes from our spouse as we argue about the best way to raise a child, it comes from well meaning parents and parents in law, it comes from school teachers and other parents and most importantly it comes from inside our own minds. We are our own biggest critic!!!
Sounds like parenting is the hardest job in the world!!!
The most important thing I have learnt as a parent, as a therapist and as a human being is the act of self compassion. With all the knowledge in the world, we are never going to raise the perfect child, but maybe we need to shift our expectations to raising a happy child instead and for that we need to find our own sense of self worth, authenticity and care for ourselves.
I had a huge reality check when I started working on myself, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. It took courage, resilience and a lot of tears to be brave enough to face my demons and I thought I was doing that to be a better therapist, turns out I became a better parent and a nicer human being. All the blocked care I had for myself diminished and I was able to honour myself for the very imperfect human being that I am. This meant that I was more present with my children at home, as well as all the children I worked with. I was responding to their internal experiences and no longer being deafened by my own. I could be 100% with the other, emotionally, psychologically and physically present and available. That on its own forms a very powerful human connection.
What can I do to be a better parent?
By accepting every aspect of our children as one complete entity, without separation or dividing of the good and bad parts, we help our children learn self acceptance. That is a tough process to model, to be authentic in who we genuinely are, the good the bad and the ugly. Owning our mistakes, being wiser, kinder and stronger in apologising for our errors, swallowing our pride and not being afraid to show our children our vulnerability. There is a fear that this will somehow diminish our parenting status and respect if we appear vulnerable, but I have found this to be the complete opposite. If anything, our children feel relieved that you’re not perfect as this takes all the pressure off them to live up to these unrealistic expectations. Being vulnerable is about exposing our shadow side, the less desirable parts of ourselves that exist, and honouring that those parts form this duality in our world.
Remember - Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never
failed to imitate them. - JAMES BALDWIN
Let’s have more compassion for ourselves and each other, let us raise our children based on authenticity, compassion, heart felt listening, and full acceptance of each other as we are. Lets strive to be the best parents we can be and watch the natural consequence that has on the children within our lives.