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I've been wondering if its possible to discipline my child without disciplining myself. For the last few weeks, I have been having some trouble with one of my older children. She is growing up, and the tension of her inner world, is bubbling up into our family life, creating havoc. I will admit, that when this first started happening, I was shaken to the core. She has been angry, combative, and stubborn. Now, it’s easy to hear this, and classify this behavior as bad, or some label whose connotation feels the same as the word bad, but I know my child. I know that she is nurturing and kind. She is the kind of person that cares about why her baby brother is crying and tries to do what’s in her power to help him out. She is the kind of kid that cares about dogs in shelters that she’s never seen in person, and whose goal it is to build a shelter for abused or lost dogs, and homeless people…this angry person is not my child.
Believe me when I tell you that my first feeling was anger. I became upset when this started to happen. Why is she behaving in this manner? Did I do something wrong? Is there something that she needs that I am not providing…all of those typical mom guilt feelings running through my mind. The first instance hurt me deeply. I cried. I admit that it hurt my feelings. I cried a lot. This is not something that I am used to receiving from her. The second instance, I realized that that preteen age is serious and that I have to learn to understand – I looked for help. I consulted with a mom who I admire very much, and asked for advice, while I scoured the Internet for anything that can give me answers. I found this great article, regarding the changes that 9 year olds go through. The article explains that this is a critical age, in which the world of a child is starting to be left behind for the world of a more conscious teen/adult. She is basically in a stage of development where children begin to question themselves and their place in the world. Eureka!
With this new understanding I began to perceive what she is going through, and see it in a different way. It’s easy for us moms to take things personally at times. When our children begin to react to things, as human BE-ings, it’s easy to latch onto something that causes us hurt and react in ways that we know. In fact this is where she learned this behavior from, it’s a learned behavior from my own childhood. Watching her struggle with these big feelings, and her lack of understanding has reminded me that, this is an old family reaction that I’ve decided to end; reacting to things without fully understanding them: reacting to feelings without knowing their origins: and reacting to others with anger when there are so many emotions inside, and allowing them bubble up to the surface.
You see, my beautiful, kind, nurturing kid learned this as a child – how to react without understanding, because it’s how I started out as a mother, because it’s also what I learned as a child. Watching her struggle with this has reminded me of two things:
1. She is my reason for learning to do different, because I will not continue those patterns, and
2. This is a never ending process where we all grow and learn from each other - learning to silence the emotions and old story is an important part of the process.
Because this is what I taught her in the beginning - how to react when one is scared of not understanding of situations, it is my job to stay balanced. Balanced so that I can help her understand and create different associations, learning to react in different ways. She reminds me of why I must continue to fight my old stories so that I do not revert to being that mom that does not understand and does not connect. She reminds me of the true meaning of discipline: to teach, and guide - to learn about myself, so that I can show her different possibilities. You see, the discipline in this situation has nothing to do with shaming her or making her feel guilty for being human, but has everything to do with me having self discipline, so that I don’t continue to react to her hurt and her cries for help in negative ways. The self-discipline to quiet those voices fuelled by past experience that say that I have to guilt, shame, yell back, or control.
I am always learning and growing, and have made it my life’s mission to continue to release old stories that no longer work, so that I can show my children a better way: understanding that I hold the key, and that I can show them that different ways are possible… we don’t have to continue in ways that we know - we can strive for better.
My action plan, while this period of change happens, is to connect with her as much as possible. Without reacting to the things that she is feeling. Helping her to understand her inner world, I will show her healthy boundaries, and show her how to release those feelings that she is learning about through a medium that she loves ex. music, art, reading, or writing – the choice is hers, while I walk her through her growing process.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ….
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Understanding her silent plight is opening up in me, the desire to connect with her more, while I grow to become the mother that I always wanted to be. I strive to quiet the voices that tell me that they are not worthy of loving connection, even though they are human – one challenge, one child, one moments at a time.
I would love to hear from you in the comments. What are your tricks or tips to connect, or to understand.
Also, if you found this post inspirational or helpful in any way - or knows anyone that needs to read this, like and share! :)