Too often, I come across broken or saddened teens and preteens, who appear down on themselves. The youth and vigor for life, that we expect to see missing. Young people, who we adults think are in their prime, walking around as empty vessels, looking for anything to fill them...in the case of Izabel Laxamana, her fix was suicide...and I ask myself does it have to be this way?
In a society that values productivity, numbers, and letters, virtues such as compassion, empathy and love are seen as secondary and not as important. We push our children to do more, listen more, act better, do better, but are we? We expect that they become the models of what our visions want them to become and we forget that they have already arrived, brining who they are...only we've forgotten to look. In her case, the last straw seemed to be the public shaming from her father - although, there is talk about bullying and things of that nature happening in her life.
Izabel Laxamana's life is typical to many younger people that we see: bullied in school, and shamed by her father, and yet, many many times, when we hear about this happening, some think, eh this is normal, and dismiss their feelings by saying, they have to learn to accept this part of life. But I ask you, how many more children are going to take their lives due to feelings that are too dark for them to understand, before we accept that we have to try another way?
I've seen it many times. Tired parent. Parents that are trying to make a living. Exhausted. Trying to scrape together enough money to get by, and taking their frustrations out on their children. Parents who are trying to reach their children, and have them do what is necessary for them to be successful, in order to lead the lives that the parents dream of...only it's hard to listen when you're not listening. Children are crying out in mass about what is going on in their lives - the second leading cause of death in children/teens ages 10 to 24 IS suicide - and about what they don't approve of, what it is that they need in their lives, only we don't listen....and one would say: I ask them, but they don't tell me. Or, they don't listen. Or, my child is not behaving properly. Only...What we think is "bad behavior" is actually a cry for help. They say I need to be heard, and I don't know to ask for it properly - or I don't think that I will be heard - and you will won't understand.
The problem is that we don't know how to identify the behavior, because many of us, are dealing with our own sets of problems and think that our children's problems are somehow less than ours - until it's too late. Until cases like Izabel Laxamana's pop up...this does not have to happen.
I use this post as a call to action. A call to have any parent out there rethink their strategies: children don't have to be shamed (publicly or privately) or punished to make them behave better...we can learn to do it another way. You can challenge your beliefs and stories. Learn to listen to their song, and DISCIPLINE them in a way that brings you closer together and helps you both learn to heal...HEAL WITH THEM.
I've quoted before, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous lines
and they seem fitting again. Let's not let her life mean nothing. Let's take it as a lesson, and allow it to mean everything. Yes, what we tell our children, how we treat them, the way we think about them, makes a difference.
The truth is that this dad was probably doing his best. The best with what he knew - because come on, that's all that we can ever do at any moment - only it didn't help his daughter, Izabel Laxamana.
So, how do you know if your child needs you to learn another way? I'll tell you, it's pretty simple. Start by asking yourself the simple question, "does my child open up to me?" When he or she is hurting (crying, sad, upset, angry, frustrated) do they turn to you and open up? Do they feel safe feeling vulnerable with you? If not, it might be time for another way.
Do you need help? You can start by listening to your child. Quieting your old stories, and learning to listen to your child.
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I am a floater...I've always been a go with the wind, and ride it kind of gal! I've had many great opportunities from just being open and flexible. As a result, I never felt the need to change many things, because I was just going with the flow: from one thing to the next, and learning as life happened and as people, places, and events came my way...In fact, I tell most people, that if it were not for my children and husband, I would float away into the sky. I was like this until I started to have my children. My children are the biggest reason that I've learned to seek and actively change, in more ways, than one.
One example is me becoming a raw vegan. I did this because I was tired of being tired. I wanted
to have energy to play with, and run with my children. I felt compelled to do something about the way that I felt and found raw veganism to be an answer. For those of you who have not had a food related life style change, I tell you that this is SO HARD! For the first few weeks, I wanted to stuff my face with everything and anything that was around me. But, knowing that this change meant the difference between a connected mamma, and a tired grumpy mamma made all of the difference - I pushed on. There have been others things like learning to stop yelling (which was big), learning to listen and understand my children in a deeper human level, or learning to understand and pick apart my past and family/ancestral lineage so that I can pick apart and release old family patterns and hurts.
I've learned to be present, more empathetic, and compassionate because of them. In every stage of my life, they have been the driving force for me to become a better person, so that I could become a better mother. I think that when we face the demons and the darkness that we feel, with a brave face, we learn so much about ourselves. I believe that children are our mirrors, in that they reflect what we are putting out into the world and into our home. Being honest with these truths, we are able to embrace the changes that need to happen and learn to live a fuller, more connected life. I have found that even though different circumstances may seem challenging, I don't have to define the challenging times as hard - but as a new way to see the world. I have understood that in life's divine timing, I have the fantastic opportunity to learn and grow...and for this, I thank these beautiful people that I am proud to share my life with.
Let’s talk about beliefs, and why we must look at the importance of them in our lives. When we are in the process of changing our parenting style, our beliefs shape how we see the world. Whether we are aware of it or not, these things affect our every day lives, essentially affecting the decisions that we make. Now you might ask, what does this have to do with being an Introspective Parent? My answer is everything.
New Oxford Dictionary defines belief as an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists: or something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction our beliefs are as subjective as reality – meaning, that what we think or perceive is what we accept as reality.
A long time ago, when I was learning about changing my parenting style, I came across an article, which talked about the importance of language and the effects that it has on us, and how we see our children. For instance, if one of my children is insistent on doing something in a certain way; a specific hairstyle, wearing a certain article of clothing or anything that they want to choose for themselves, I can interpret this in various ways, and the words that I use to describe the action, make a huge difference in my interpretation of the event: words like bossy, leader, decisive, etc. The word that we chose correlates with our belief systems and what we learned growing up, as well as how we define ourselves, and our children. The reaction that we have after the definition of the word has seeped into our consciousness, has a direct effect on our behavior, and in order to change our reactions from within, we must challenge our selves, and what we have learned and/or have been taught, i.e. our beliefs.
When we are not able to, or are unwilling to acknowledge our triggers and behaviors, in correlation with our belief systems, we usually behave in the same manner taught to us during childhood - or something similar. But when we begin to look at our belief systems, and understand them, we can learn to perceive our relationship with our children in different way - then change accordingly. When we learn to understand our lives in another context: learn to live more openly, more fully aligned with our convictions and desires, we are better able to open up and learn to see our children in another light. The question then becomes: How can I heal myself, and learn to change my perception, and old behavoral patters?
Challenging your belief systems is never easy, but it can be a crucial step in changing the way that we interact with out children, and the way that they open up and trust us. The first step is always acknowledging that there is another way, and learning to listen to our children - not listening to respond, but actually listening with the intention of understanding. Slowly as we practice this, we learn more about who they are, and also who we are.
Last night, I learned a lesson in paying attention and listening that I will never forget. My 9-year-old daughter has the habit of not making her bed until the very last minute of sleep - a habit that makes me nuts. Every night, I remind her countless times to fix her bed before getting tired or getting ready to sleep...sometimes she does it, sometimes she does not. She has admitted to me that she detests fixing her bed, and this is why it often takes her so long - tonight was no different.
As I walked by her room, everyone already asleep, I peek into her room and see her sitting on her bed: bed unmade, and daughter fiddling around with paper. I open the door and say to her, that her bed should've been made hours before, and that she should stop being lazy and just get it over with and fix her bed. Now, my daughter, without batting an eye, sits up, smiles and says, "mami, I have something for you." To my surprise, it's a card. She was sitting on her bed, writing cards out for everyone in our family, and had just finished my card, and had it ready to give to me.
Now, I feel like an asshole. I look down at this card, and then back over at my beaming baby! The most important thing to her, is me reading that card. Not that I called her lazy about fixing her bed (even though its killing me!). Not that in a few minutes time she has to dreadfully fix her bed, and definitely not the fact that judged her actions before I was aware of what she was doing.
As I opened and red her card, I heart fully apologized for calling her lazy and for jumping to conclusions...she said that it was ok, and waited for my reaction. As I read her words of love to me, I cried, smiled and then kissed and hugged her. I told her my feelings, and about joy-filled her card made me.
I often feel very proud about changing my mothering habits: going from being a hitter and yeller to a peaceful and gentle parent, but these moments like this remind me that the journey has many roads and bumps along the way, all leading to healing my relationship with them and my self. The more open and honest I am with her, the more that she teaches me to be a better mother, for her and to my other children. My daughter did not think twice about my unfortunate choice of words, but I did, and I will from now one. As a homeschool mom, its easy to think that I'm teaching her and her siblings all day long, but the truth is that she and all of my children, teach me in more ways than they know. Opportunities for growth are eerywhere, sometimes, we just have to adjust our lense.
Have you recently had a moment like this with your child? I would love to hear about it! Please share in the comments below.