So much of the information out there about how to be a better parent focuses on techniques for modifying your child’s behavior.
In my opinion, that thought process is missing the mark.
Research has repeatedly shown that the best thing a person can do to be a better parent, is to focus on developing him or herself. When it comes to raising children, there are many reasons for us to look inward and try to better understand ourselves as people.
One thing that can hinder us, is the fact that our children can sometimes stir up buried or unresolved feelings from our own childhood.
Parenting our own children can reawaken painful feelings that we blocked from our conscious mind. The actions or feelings our children display can stir up emotions from our own childhood and threaten to reactivate them. Avoiding those old feelings can cause us to pull away from our children.
At times, when there is an emotional connection with our childhood, we may be uncomfortable and even feel anger or resentment toward our children. If we allow the feelings that are being stirred up to remain unresolved, we can be cut off and misunderstand or completely miss out on what our children are feeling and experiencing.
Instead of continuing to defend ourselves against feelings we suppressed in childhood, we should face them and make sense of any traumas that have been unresolved. Once we understand what happened in our own childhood, we can be more effective parents and develop more secure emotional attachments with our children.
Sometimes, dysfunctional attitudes toward our children are simply a reflection of the dysfunctional attitudes we have toward ourselves. This may lead us to project our critical feelings about ourselves onto our children. Everyone is divided in the sense that they have feelings of self-worth, as well as feelings of self-hatred and/or self-depreciation.
It’s not uncommon for parents to misunderstand or disown their critical attitudes and negative self-image by projecting them onto their children and can be a by-product of their fundamental conflicts and ambivalence toward themselves. When they do this, they become overly critical of the qualities and traits they perceive in their child, leading to the child seeing themselves through a negative filter. This can lay a foundation for the child that could stay with them throughout their lives. Much as it did in the parent.
When we look at ourselves and understand where our critical attitudes come from, we can develop more compassion for ourselves and also for our children.
Despite our best intentions, we will most likely parent our children the way we were parented, and because of this, at some point, everyone experiences hearing the same critical statement that your parent said to you, coming out of your mouth. If you are like most of us, you will be horrified and unable to believe you are acting that way toward your child.
Some parents experience this when their child passes through a stage of development that was particularly painful or traumatic in their childhood. During these phases, parents often treat the child as they were treated at that age or as if their child was experiencing what they experienced.
The passing of a parent’s negative actions through the generations involves three phases:
To varying degrees, all of us have suffered rejection, deprivation, hostility and trauma in our formative years. At times, when our parents lost control, either emotionally or physically, we took on their feelings, thoughts and attitudes toward us in the form of a critical inner voice.
In other words, we assumed the identity of our parents as they were at their worst, not as they usually were in their everyday lives.
We retained that destructive inner voice throughout our lives, restricting, limiting and punishing ourselves. Sometimes, even though it was perceived as negative, we could soothe ourselves by subconsciously parenting ourselves as we were parented.
When we became parents, we almost felt compelled, consciously or sub-consciously, to act out similar patterns of treatment toward our children.
In order to stop this trend, we as parents have to face the painful feelings we experienced as a result of the treatment we received.
If we revisit our early traumas, we can identify the negative attitudes that were internalized and begin to heal. Then we’ll be able to offer the warmth, affection, love and guidance necessary to raise our children without the suffering we experienced.
Scientific studies point to something that most parents realize without being told.
We are role models to our children.
Psychologists have found that children “do as parents do, not as they say” most of the time.
Being a positive role model is far more powerful than specific training or discipline in raising children. Our children imitating of our actions and behaviors have a greater effect on their personality than rules. Children develop behaviors through observing their parents in everyday life. Every behavior that we engage in should be worthy of imitating, because our children will eventually repeat it.
The fact that our children are looking to us to see how to act should be enough of a reason for us to focus on our development as a person. If we have developed integrity in the way we live our own lives, we will be able to provide our children with a good model for mature, adult reasoning. Our honesty, integrity and maturity are much more important in determining healthy development than any techniques prescribed by experts.
We can best help our children by trying to fulfill our own lives instead of sacrificing ourselves for them. When we are involved in an honest pursuit of our goals, we serve as positive examples for our children. We have to genuinely value ourselves, accept all of our feelings, wants and priorities and participate in our own lives.
If we develop a capacity for feeling and are willing to fully invest in our lives, we will have an incredibly positive effect on the personal development of our children and on their entire future.
Unfortunately, instead of living their own lives, many parents live through their children. Rather than giving to their children, they are taking from them. These parents are acting out their emotional hunger and unsatisfied longing for love and care, caused in their own childhood. They confuse intense feelings of need with feelings of genuine love. Sustained contact with an emotionally hungry parent leaves a child feeling drained and empty.
Rather than striving to fulfill the role of a “perfect” parent or even a “good” parent, we can offer our children much more by being real with them. By admitting our shortcomings and weaknesses, sharing the history of our own formative years, revealing our personal struggles and successes and relating to them as honestly as possible, we can begin to break the pattern and give our children a better chance at being a happy, loving, successful parent when the time comes.
Ultimately, our ability to show compassion for ourselves leads us to be compassionate when raising our children.
Parents who have grown up with an image of themselves as unlovable are often resistant to having close, loving moments with their children or to having their child look at them with love. When parents have issues with their children loving them, they respond negatively to them. This will ultimately result in this trait being passed on to their child and affect the child’s ability to love and be loved throughout their lives.
The overall conclusion that I would like you to come away with is this, the more we as parents work to become better, more loving people in general, the more successful we will be in raising loving, well-adjusted children. This will ultimately result in generations after you having more loving and nurturing relationships naturally.
It is said that what we do in the present affects the future and that couldn’t be truer when it comes to raising our children.
If this topic resounds with you, or if you are trying to develop more parenting skills, please join me on my free webinar Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 4:00 pm (Eastern). The webinar is titled “Five Common Traps Every Parent Should Avoid, In Order to Raise Happy and Determined Kids” and is designed to help you recognize and deal with 5 common issues parents have while raising children.
If you would like to know more about being a better parent or coaching in general, please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You could also visit my website at jedwardscoaching.com to schedule a free coaching session. While you’re there, sign up to participate in the 30-Day Positivity Challenge or receive a Personal Happiness Checklist, all completely free of charge.
Any comments, questions or feedback are greatly appreciated. Please leave them below in the comments section.
Thank you and have a great day!