Your relationship with your child, is like any other relationship your life: here to teach you something about yourself. It is has been said that
“Most parents will do anything for their children, but let them be themselves”
I think that this does and does not have some sort of truth to it: because we don’t do this intentionally. The truth is that our children, with their behaviors and actions, have the ability to pull out of our subconscious memories, actions and behaviors that we sometimes hide or ignore. Of course the majority of us don’t want to yell or treat our children in a way that we know might cause them emotional hurt (or any other kind of hurt), but often, when we are in a situation that we do not know how to handle, due to lack of example or any other reason, we are left raw and gnawing for any way to make sense of the situation.
Fortunately, the greatest lessons happen when the circumstances become tense and we feel powerless, weak, or defeated. These are the moments when we can learn about ourselves through the magic in our relationship with our children. When we stop and listen we understand. If we treat our relationships with our children as if it were a romantic relationship: one of equals, and mutual agreement, the possibilities of the relationship open up. We are better able to learn about ourselves - and our reaction helping us to change the way that we behave towards our children.
When I began to listen to my children, not to answer but to understand, the world opened up for me. I felt as if the skies rolled back and something magical happened. They began to listen to me more often and I began to understand them. I fell in love, with them (and do so over and over again), and they with me. Once I stopped trying to control them or make them do things (treating them as equals in a relationship rather than people for me to mold or create) our relationship changed from one of constant struggle to one of mutual understanding and more full of joy. Once I allowed them to be themselves we were both free. I slowly became free of the confines of my past and a lot of the beliefs that I had about myself: like the belief that I was only loveable when I was being a “good girl”or being agreeable and nice. Learning to let my children be who they are, helped me realized that that old childhood belief of being loveable when I was good, was crap. I learned to love my self, when I was moody or cranky whenever I loved my kids though the same.
When I learned to love them for being them selves, without changing them or trying to mold them, I gave myself permission to do the same. I love my children naturally, but I also learn and grow with, and because of them. Every challenging opportunity is a new chance to find another layer of love within me – a layer to uncover another lie, and find the truth, and with each challenge I am pushed to find another way. They are my teachers, and I am their guide. Looking at them in this light, continuously reminds me of how special they are, and how lucky I am to have them in my life. So today I ask you: what challenges can you turn into beautiful lessons?
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.
Healing the relationship with your child can be scary. It requires questioning our beliefs and behaviors. We have to begin to treat our children and ourselves in a way that we are not familiar with.
When I began the process of learning to understand my children, in order to become a more gentle peaceful parent, I didn't realize that, although my initial mission was to change the way that I reacted to my children, I was also changing myself. I learned how to change the patterns that were the norm, and I learned how to heal my own emotions while healing theirs. Today, I will share with you, some of the things that I learned along the way.
Forgiveness Is Important
This one is very difficult for us to do. As mothers, I think that we have attached a strange pleasure to the guilt martyr feelings...I jest! Kinda. We replay things that we did over and over and over again in our brains, replaying what happened. We obsess over the things that we've done. Or could've done better. Or should've. Or blah blah blah. When the truth is that we all have moments that are not stellar, and holding on to these things is sure to do one of two things:
The truth is that every not-so-great moment, is a chance to learn something. A new way to react in the future, form a new perspective and understand where we learned the behavior. Rainbows come after the rain, and we too blossom through every experience. We all go through this. Beating yourself up does not help you in the long run. See it for what it is: a chance to change and start anew.
Being Less Reactive Can Be A Miracle
I still remember when I realized this for the first time. I was on my couch, after a long day: 9 pm and husband still at work: kids needing to be bathed: exhaustion: lack of sleep: and me needing a break. Most days this would've been the perfect concoction for cranky and yelling.
One of my twins walked by me, and headed to the kitchen. At this time, he was 3 years old, and had a new found fondness for climbing onto the kitchen counter and going through the cabinets. He would take everything - as long as he could reach it - out, and would throw it everywhere. This time was different. I asked him what he wanted, and if he was hungry. He nodded his head yes. Being a late talker, this communication was huge. If I would've reacted as times before: yelled, assumed that he was playing in the cabinet and wanting to take things out and spill them everywhere, I would not have learned to understand. Instead I would have become angry with the thoutht that I had to clean the mess that always happened when he went through the cabinets.
Being non-reactive and understanding instead, allowed me to change my perception and reaction. I learned that day, that being one sided and not giving thought to the why he, or any of my other children, do certain things is disconnecting. Taking a breath between feelings and reaction can often be life altering.
Listening Without Defending and Apologizing After
Admitting I Was Wrong
When I was pregnant with my last baby, I had a conversation with my oldest daughter about my old behaviors and parenting style (yelling and not understanding). It forced me to confront the reality that I was not listening to them. We spoke about where I learned those behaviors. She was glad that I was not going to be "that mommy" with her new baby brother, and that I am not like that anymore with her and her siblings. When I listened, and created a space for her to feel trust, without her feeling attacked, or as if she had to defend herself the healing process began.
When we listen to our children and what they have to say about our actions/reactions to them, we learn to understand them - their needs, wants, feelings and thoughts. We allow them to get out what they keep inside, and help them heal past hurts. We learn to understand the consequence of our actions, and learn to behave in a way that honors them and ourselves while fostering the relationship, and just as important, we gain their trust.Saying that I was wrong and apologizing moved mountains. Not only for my children but also for myself. It lead to freedom.
Understanding My Beginnings - My Ancestry
It might be hard to know why act in a certain way, when we don't know or understand were these behaviors come from. When we are unconscious of the energies in our relationships: thoughts, emotions, feelings, acts etc., with out children we may be doomed to repeat them. Unconscious energies have a great ability to creep up in our everyday lives. Changing and understanding my behaior, was one of the reasons that I started to question my beliefs and ancestry. Research has shown that it is possible to pass along memories and trauma through our DNA. It is possibly carry along family dramas or past actions into the present, and being unaware of these past issues, patterns, or stories, can lead us into repeating them. Fortunatly becoming aware of these energies, gives us a head start, and the ability to consciously change.
Becoming More Available
The more present that I am, the more I am able to connect, and understand. I am able to see issues, before they become a problem. I am able to understand what my needs are, hunger, tired, thirsty, sleepy etc., so that I can be more available to my children and I can nurture myself, and also be more nurturing to them.
Checking messages, looking through social media, reading articles online, etc., these are all things that take more time that I may have at the moment. Leaving devices alone has helped me tremendously. I have realized that having my smart phone with me creates a lot of crap that is not necessary. In the world of a child, 5 extra minutes in hunger mode (or mommy - hanger is real here folks!), can make the big difference between melt down and cooperation.
I am learning to leave my laptop in my office and my smart phone in another room or on a shelf. I check only when I have a personal message or call from family. Everything else is left for certain times of the day (early morning or night). Of course, at times, I do pop in, but I have noticed the difference between being present and just being in the room.
It is said that there is not such thing, as a good or bad child, only someone that needs attention. I agree with this. I find that when my kids are acting out, is when they need more attention: open, honest, and loving attention. I am able to deal with the issue head one and figure out a solution that helps and heals us both. Labeling the behavior as "bad" stops the progress.
When we label something, we automatically define it. Our children are more than labels. They are not black and white, or good or bad. They are people with feelings and emotions that span the entire spectrum - as are we. When we learn to remove labels, we learn to deal with the issues that are at hand.
Learning to LOVE Oneself
This one is kind-of a big deal. In order to properly nurture and heal my children, I had to learn to start healing myself, emotionally, physically, and spiritually while listening to my inner guidance. I had to learn to be honest with my needs. Listen to my body, and take care of it. I learned to stop doing things that were hurting me. This is one of those things that I am always learning and improving.
I will not say that all of this happens over night. In fact, I think that the older the child is, when we start to heal and move forward, the longer it might take to heal and move past a lot of the layers of baggage - but, I know that it is worth it. If I can change the relationship with my "defiant" child (the one who came along to help me heal and learn another way, into one of harmony, trust, and openness), then you can definitely do it too.