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The Important Job of Parenting
Some of you know that I am working on my second book on the important job of parenting; a guide to emotional healing and wellness for children, which, of course, starts with their parents. Here is a look at some of the aspects my book will address.
Our primary obligation, as parents of our children, is to be guardians of their unique spirits, while simultaneously helping them unfold into emotionally, mentally and spiritually happy adults.
Various parenting methods produce children whose primary emotion is either love or fear – these are the only two options. It seems to me that the “authoritarian” parenting style is still very much alive and well in the raising of today’s children. This makes sense due to the fact that so many of us were raised ourselves by parents using this approach. The challenge with this approach is that the children who are punished or told what to do at all times “or else,” end up living in fear. It is the only result of authoritarian parenting. Children parented in this way feel under attack. These children put up defenses around the parts of themselves that their parents don’t approve of and try to protect their vulnerable inner selves by displaying tough outer selves. They keep themselves “safe” but at what cost? Repression prevents the growth and development of the whole person. And when parents reject or try to stifle a natural part of who their children truly are, we see the birth of self-dislike and sometimes even self-hatred in those children. They will hate the parts of themselves that put their parents love for them at risk. To children, rejection is the same as abandonment and abandonment is the same as death. And when children live in fear of being who they truly are and don’t love themselves, they cannot experience true happiness nor can they spread love in this world.
So am I saying that children should be allowed to do whatever they want? Am I saying that there should be no consequences for children who behave inappropriately? Am I a parent who believes that it is best to never say “no” to a child? Absolutely not.
I believe that we as parents need to support our children by validating how they feel and who they are. We do this by allowing our children to express themselves and find ways to encourage them to express themselves both verbally and through their actions. This means:
- That when choosing our children’s extra-curricular activities for this fall, we let them choose what they want to do, as opposed to what we want them to do.
- Saying yes as often as possible. Saying yes is a way for parents to honour their children and encourage them at the same time.
- That when we share our opinion with our children, we state that this is only our opinion, not “the way”, thereby encouraging our children to develop their own opinions.
- Allowing our children to question authority and values. We want our children to be independent thinkers and at the same time we want them to show appropriate respect and to live in a world of where there is authority and standards.
- That we discuss the challenges with our children that come about from making inappropriate decisions or come up with natural consequences, as opposed to becoming upset or punishing them, when they reveal things to us that they are not proud of. We want to encourage them to open up to us not discourage them.
- Preserving our children’s sense of their own worth by avoiding the practice of shaming and devaluing them. This means that we do not call attention to what we believe to be our children’s faults. And we certainly do not tease them or make jokes at their expense.
- Providing clear boundaries and setting limits that reinforce a child’s sense of safety and support – and these boundaries and limits need to be set prior to a birthday party or a shopping trip, to name a couple of examples. And we teach our children about appropriate personal boundaries by modeling them. Personal space and the right to privacy are two examples.
- Learning to communicate well with our children. We ask them questions such as “Can you describe the way you felt when the teacher said that to you?” “Was basketball practice better for you today since we came up with those strategies for you to try?”
- Believing that when conflicts occur between us and our children, it is not because our children are doing something wrong but instead, we need to look at our own part in the difficulties. Often what looks like misbehaviour in young children may be something else; a child may be tired or hungry or sick or even thirsty. And when there is misbehaviour, we want to focus on the misbehaviour rather than questioning our children’s character and motivation. Children need to know that their parent is unhappy with what they have done but is not questioning their value as a person.
- Offering love and support to our children without conditions. We cannot love our children more or less because they perform in a certain way.
- Helping our children experience joy. And laughing deeply and often around and with our children.
In fact, parenting well is a process of becoming more ourselves. It involves becoming the whole people we truly are inside, before we were diminished through the wounding so many of us experienced in our childhoods or later in life. So, in fact the job we do of parenting is not only crucial to our children’s safety and happiness, it is crucial to our own self healing and growth as individuals.
If this blog post resonates with you, please let me know! I need encouragement to finish writing my book! And as always, thank you for reading my work. Please feel free to leave a link back to your own blog too if you have one, via the commentluv feature here on the site.
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Until next time,