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A few days ago, I had a heart to heart moment with the youngest of my two daughters - who is one of the oldest ones of my bunch. This came about because I came to the realization, that from all of my kids, she is the one that needs the least amount of stuff from me. She is self-sufficient, reliable, always in a great mood, and very even tempered...seems like the perfect kid, huh? But, when I remember how she was as a baby, I realized that this was not how she came to this world.
For starters she was born colicky. She cried and cried for hours, and days without end... She was an emotional child - and I don't mean this in a bad way, but in that way, that when she feels something, she feels it in her soul. She was one of those babies who was tough as nails, but also gentle as a butterfly.
Now, self reliant and practical, the traces of that emotional baby are long gone. She no longer shares her feelings with me - or anyone else for the matter. She is excellent in terms of helping her baby brothers when they need her to hold them, cuddle caress or care for them: but her emotions are bottled up tight and held in the safe of her heart. She does not share them with anyone...and you know, this makes me sad. I think that a lot of times we adults don't care for ourselves in the proper way, because we have learned to bottle our emotions.
Where did they go? I'll tell you. I tucked them away. You see. When she was a baby. She cried so much and was so full of emotion that I didn't know how to handle it. She was one of those kids that cried all of the time...and I didn't know how to deal with it. You see, I was taught that there is no reason for children to cry. I was taught that crying was bad, and that if a child's needs are met (food, clothing, toys, etc.) that there is no reason for them to cry. I would tell her to stop crying. I would scream at her because she seemed to cry all day long. Non stop. Most days it would drive me crazy and I would become angry with her. Now after a few years, she is older, I am wiser, and have learned how to become more patient, and have become very aware that crying is a sign of a need, not something to become annoyed with. I have realized the harm that I did during that time, by not allowing her to feel free to feel her feelings...I made her bottle them up. So where is the heart to heart you ask?
Well, a few days ago, while I was making breakfast we were having a talk - about random stuff. Food. Her brothers. The day. Nothing in particular. And she tells me that she remembers being a baby, and me putting glove things, on her hands because she used to scratch her face. She was months old when this used to happen. So I asked her. "Do you remember crying a lot, when you were a baby?" Her response, "Yup. I used to want you to pick me up." Folks. My heart sank! My little baby, only wanted to be held...and back then I, didn't listen to my heart, I listened to people tell me that I should not pick her up a lot, because she would become spoiled, and would want to be held all day...this, BTW still breaks my heart to know. Anyhow, I told her that I was sorry. I told her that I was sorry that I didn't hold her more then. That I was sorry that she has learned to feel that her emotions are supposed to be buried deep within. And I told her that I take responsibility for her thinking that way. And that I promise to always, be available for her, and that I will help her feel comfortable in sharing her feelings.
I was reminded this weekend, once again that the way that I treat my children matters...but mostly, I was reminded that learning to understand myself, and love myself while I become healthy emotionally and physically, are a few of the most important things that I can do for my children. Because the way that they see themselves and interpret their lives comes directly from the way in which they see us react to them and our environment. It is my mission, to help her learn, in as loving a way as I can, to help her heal and learn to express herself fully... and I am happy to report that over the course of the weekend, hugs and kisses have been in abundance :D and she is willing to come out of her shell.
I am dedicated to helping other mothers out there, so that they don't have to go through these hard lessons with their children. If you have a situation that is similar to this, or would like to understand and/or prevent this or understand yourself and child better, please sign up for Regaining Harmony. It's FREE.
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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There is a young boy who lives in my neighborhood, one who I’ve been watching grow up for years. He’s 19, he’s handsome and he seems to be aware of the things and people around him. He seems kind and is very quiet. As you can tell, by my vague description, I don’t know him very well: but I can tell you that when my dog got out of my yard, he brought him back – this action has always stayed with me, and gives my me a nice memory when I see him. So when I found out yesterday that this young boy has a severe drug problem, it saddened me. Deeply.
Now, I’ve always recognized that within him there is a deep sorrow but lately he’s been more lost. He’s becoming lost into the world of drugs and all of the dark things that go along with that world. The mom in me wants to help him. I want to hold him while he cries and tell him that it’s going to be ok. I want to rub his head, while he releases his sorrow in tears, and tell him that it’s a fleeting moment, and that it will pass like everything in life – but I can’t. Watching him grow into a tortured person hurts me from the outside and makes me think, “What can I do?” So I pray. I pray and I pay more attention to my kids – because you see, the thought of one of my kids choosing a life style like this keeps my up at night.
I lay awake at night, in the dark thinking about all of the people that we come across who have chosen this lifestyle and what brought them to this. I wonder about their family life, and about the examples or experiences that they saw in their childhood that made them run to these methods of coping. These thoughts help me remember to become more present: because I know that the key lies in the now.
The moment that I live in, always NOW, is what holds the key. When they – my kids – are crying, what’s the true reason behind the tears: the purpose behind the sadness. When they are struggling with something, how am I nurturing a healthy way to learn from the challenge? When they are feeling big emotions, like my daughter and her anger, how can I turn this moment into introspection and understanding for both of us – and chose connection and understanding vs. guilt and shame…so many questions.
Did I forget to mention that this boy has a son? Yes. He does. This lost boy has a 2 year old baby son – a son who is watching his father, and learning from everything that his father does. Not what his father says, but what his father does. Because the truth is that they learn from what we do. Our children, especially when they are younger, watch us intently, learning from our behavior. They learn to see the world through our eyes. They learn how to react to the world around them, by watching the way that we react to our world - they take on these understandings as their own while they grow. They learn to see and react to challenges, emotions and changes, as we do. The adage, the change begins with you, has everything to do with this.
We are all beginning to feel somewhere within ourselves that the stories and beliefs that we have been telling ourselves is no longer working – I dare you to challenge and change them. Not for yourself, but for your child. We can each change the world, our families, our children and our lives one choice, thought, feeling and emotion at a time.
By taking time to nourish YOUR soul, and nourish what makes you feel good - and alive. By bringing that into your life, family, community etc., you can be the change. It’s time to be authentic, and live your happy. The only way to break the cycle is to be the change. It starts with you…and in the mean time, I will keep choosing connection and understanding wherever possible...and as for this boy, I will continue to pray and send out good vibes his way.
Image found via Pinterest
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, ….
Image found via lifehack.org
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! :)
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.