As much as I talk about the importance of taking care of yourself, of filling up your cup so you can fill your children’s, we put ourselves at the bottom of our to-do list—if we make it to the list at all. There’s always too much to do.
I received this email from a woman who has been there and done just that—taken care of herself—after realizing the importance of it. She said it so well that I had to share her words with all of you. Please take heed and let her words give you a kick where you need it. Start re-prioritizing now.
I recently listened to your podcast Tell Me About Your Kids. One episode struck a chord within me because I was that mother to my oldest son when he was 3-7. I had unrealistic expectations, preconceived notions about “normal behaviour”, compared him to his peers, felt ashamed and guilty that our parenting must have “caused this”, felt hopeless and yelled a lot… not knowing what to do and feeling like I was doing it all wrong.
At the same time, I began an endless pursuit of solutions which took me down a path to discovery. First, I focused on learning about childhood behaviours through materials on ADHD, strong-willed children, etc. Next, I delved into connected and conscious parenting which seemed to take the onus off the child and onto the connection with the parent. Finally, I came to the place where I realized it was about me and my connection with myself first. I had to take responsibility for the energy I brought to my home and transform my reactions to responses, including being mindful of how my husband and I communicated when upset.
I meditated, went on a silent retreat, joined a class with my children about mindfulness, breathwork, prayer and developing the heart and learning compassion towards myself and my family. From this space life began to make sense, and “bad behaviours” became simply a puzzle of sorts piecing together an unmet need behind the behaviour.
When I discovered your book, “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons”, it truly gave me a sense of relief from the thoughts of guilt and oftentimes isolation I felt dealing with our parenting struggles. It helped me learn that the struggles weren’t relative to parenting so much as they were to our own inner landscapes. I’m still learning that children reflect back to us the areas we need to investigate and heal.
This transformation is a work in progress that took nearly 6 years and now I clearly see that happy parents are the first step to happy, connected children. I was once trapped by the perception that my energy and reactions had all to do with my child. Children are like sponges soaking up and acting out whatever perception we hold of them.
As the brilliant Wayne Dyer said something like, “Once you change the way you look at things; the things you look at change.”
I still often wish I didn’t have to learn this the hard way and feel sad for my son to have had such reactive parents who couldn’t accept him for who he was at the sweet young innocent ages of 3-8….but remind myself it was a journey. We now feel that we made it into a more peaceful and confident family. It’s never really about the child if you are willing and open to that awareness.
Here’s a for instance: My older son’s resistance to brushing his teeth before bed. Seemed the nightly battle raged on for a couple of years! Each night both my husband and I would get so angry and frustrated thinking, “Why is it that you just won’t do this with ease??” Looking back, my heart breaks to think the focus we placed on his resistance without first asking ourselves, where are we being resistant to him? I can come up with many examples of how often we said “no” without realizing he had no concept of our intention behind it. The anxiety infused into my son night after night with our comments sounded to him like, “Why can’t you be normal? Why do you cause problems? What’s wrong with you?” Instead of “Just brush your teeth” it became, “Which toothbrush do you want to use tonight—electric or regular? Do you want strawberry or mint? I’m gonna brush mine too.” Simple enough. I would take back in a heartbeat the heaviness and stress we laid on him before bed.
For those who are willing to do the work, it can have a profound transformational impact on “bad behaviours” and resolve broken connections quite quickly when you can actually be the change you wish to see. Your children don’t listen? Where are you not listening to them? Take inventory about any issues you and your child are facing and shine the light back onto yourself—you might begin to notice the dynamic quite clearly.
I now consider my sole purpose as a parent to manage my own emotions and energies simply as a human being with a compassionate gentle standard of care. In doing so, everything else falls into place effortlessly. The realization that we may not be able to control the behaviours of others, including our children, but we can certainly control our own responses is a key in my everyday life. And my children witness my efforts. Perhaps one day they will be equipped to enrich their own lives instead of looking to others to do it for them.