Parenting is hard. Why? Plenty of reasons. Here are my top three:
- We aren’t trained how to be parents. There is no degree that we need to get before practicing parenting and there are no mandatory practicums once we become parents. There are no 24-hour “1-800-HelpMeNow” call centers.
- Parenting is glorified. Wherever we look and whomever we talk to, we see and hear this glorified view of parenting: Parenting is FUN! Parenting is EASY! We see pictures of parents playing on the beach with their kids. Social media posts of daughters dressed up for a dance or their middle or elementary school graduation. Rarely do you see a post showing the daughter as she’s getting dressed – the drama in choosing the dress, the tears when “the boy” doesn’t ask her to the dance. This leads us to believe that these things only happen in our houses, with our kids. (false!)
- Our shit. Our kids are like little heat seeking missiles that can find whatever unresolved issues we have and dig them out. That’s what this blog is about. I want to highlight how our most important job as a parent is to get our shit together, to work through our childhood issues, to look in the dark corners of our being so that, when our 14 year old is having her meltdown we can be unreactive and parent-like. We do not need to make our 14-year old’s fit mean anything more than what it is: her emotional reaction to her life here. It is not about us, her disrespecting us, or anything else. Manage your mind so you can teach her to manage hers.
Let me be clear: on most days, my shit is far from together. That said, I work on myself so that I can be the best me that I can be on that day. How do I do that? By getting my own shit together.
When I react, when I judge, when I lose my temper, it’s about me. It’s not about my kids. Certainly, I need to check in to make sure I’m taking care of my basic human needs (eating, sleeping, exercising) but after that, it’s time to get to work on my insides and my dark places: this is what getting my shit together is all about.
So how do you get your shit together? Start by slowing down. Slow down to notice which thoughts you’re thinking. Slow down and notice what triggers you? Slow down and see who you judge? Who do you criticize? Start to notice when you yell or lose your temper with your child? Just notice. Become aware. When you feel annoyed with your child, ask yourself what am I thinking to feel annoyed? When you feel frustrated, ask yourself what am I thinking to feel frustrated? Remember the message from last week’s blog and slow down to discover which thoughts you are choosing to focus on.
Is it mandatory to dig into your dark places in order to be a parent? Hell no. Most don’t. That’s why we get a lot of repeating generational patterns. Kid has tantrum, parent yells. Kid pushes limits, parent shames. Kid doesn’t want to do what you want him/her to do? Parent manipulate. Is it mandatory to dig into your dark places to be the best parent you can be? Yes. It’s absolutely, 100%, totally and completely necessary.
Here are some questions that can start you on your path. Grab a journal and start writing – your answers will help you see where you have an opportunity for growth:
-How do I parent when I’m stressed?
-When I complain about my kids, what do I complain about?
-Complete this: I am afraid my child will grow up to be……. (or) I am afraid my child will
grow up to be like……. This makes me afraid because…..
-How was parenting modeled for me?
-How do I usually react if my child reminds me of a parent or sibling I’m not fond of? Why?
-What did I want from a parent that I didn’t get? How is that impacting my parenting
today? (the bonus star question)
Answering even one of the questions above will move you on your path to empowered parenting. When we can look at our parenting experiences and the relationships we have with our children from a place of awareness, we act less reactively. We can see why their behavior is bothering us. We take ownership for what is going on in our head so that we can lead them to learn and manage what is going on in their head. Sure, we’ll still flip out and make mistakes. However, we will do so less frequently and less extremely. Life will be calmer. Our relationships improve when we realize our reactions are because of our shit and our issues. Choose to take a step towards empowered parenting: look inside to see why you’re acting the way you’re acting on the outside. The freedom I’ve discovered from managing my mind is why I do the work I do. Empowered parenting is best done when if we can parent ourselves first. Which question will you journal on today?