My passion is parenting help because my life has been transformed from all the help with parenting I’ve received. Without meaning to, I began parenting way too hard on myself, my kids and my husband. I battled depression, anxiety and rage because of my unrealistic expectations of myself. The harder I was on my own mistakes, the harder it was to change and become the gentle, kind and wise mother that I so dearly wanted to be.
Sound familiar? If you or someone you know is trapped in a cycle of yelling at your kids, or being too critical, only to feel remorse later, read on. This is one of the most powerful tips on parenting that I know. If you learn to forgive yourself and nurture your intention to do the right thing, you will find becoming the parent you want to be that much easier and less painful.
I’m inspired to write this post because earlier today, my eleven year old daughter and I had a major breakthrough. She and her brother have fought since they were little. I was way too hard on her when she was young, treating her as if she was bad a lot of the time. I had a huge issue with focusing on the negative, both with my behavior and with everyone else’s. So I often overreacted and was too harsh in my consequences.
Unfortunately, that created a vicious cycle. The more too hard I was, the worse she felt about herself (or me if it was my behavior I was criticizing). The worse we felt about ourselves, the harder it was to do good the next time. It is as if my critical voice was in both of our heads, making us feel worse about ourselves, and causing us to act poorly.
Fortunately I learned to start forgiving myself a few years ago, and in recent years have become quite gentle on myself. I know that I didn’t choose to be a harsh parent, any more than my mom did. She learned her behavior from her mom, and then passed it on to me. I intended to gently parent this precious baby I was given to raise, but my own programming was so powerful that I found it very hard to override. Ironically, my own programming included an unforgiving attitude towards mistakes, which was the one trait I needed to develop to allow change to happen.
This morning, as we talked to Lauren about her and Sam’s fighting, we had a huge breakthrough. She was articulating her own massive disappointment in herself when she behaves poorly. I apologized to her at a new level for being too hard on her as a child, which I’ve done before. Then I went on to explain to her how it was through learning to forgive myself that I was able to begin to change and treat her the way I want to.
It was one of those deep, connecting, healing conversations. I explained to her that one of the ways I’ve changed is by watching what I focus on so that I see the positives in everyone. She shared how sometimes when I’ve been away she’s gone around the house and cleaned up, and I’ve come home and not said a word. She realized I probably thought grandma did the clean up. It was heartwarming to realize just how good and sweet a girl she is, and to finally acknowledge some of the things she does. She cried many tears, which I know is so important for her emotional development (see an earlier blog post, The Power of Tears about why tears are such an important and often misunderstood aspect of change and adaptation).
At the end of the conversation, she got up from her bed where her dad and I had been snuggling her, and left the room. We thought she’d be back in a minute. About 10 minutes later, we found out that she’d gone to her brother’s room, woke him up crying and telling him how much she loved him. She apologized for being mean to him and snuggled her puzzled, but happy brother!
I am deeply indebted to so many great parenting educators, including:
Jennifer Kolari and her Connected Parenting work. Through her approach, I’ve shifted to a more empathetic, brain-friendly communication style with my kids.
Martin Seligman‘s and his powerful positive psychology. His books The Optimistic Child, and Authentic Happiness have been part of my profound shift from pessimism to optimism.
Shelly and Morty Lefkoe‘s belief changing work has continued on the work of Seligman. I’ve transformed many beliefs that were holding me back, which in turn have helped me to tackle persistent problems like the kids’ fighting.
Recently Ross Greene‘s The Explosive Child provided a new approach that has enabled us to get past her impulsive outbursts and into conversations like this morning that were so healing and helpful.
And so many more such as Dr. Michele Borba, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Dr. David Burns, and Byron Katie. We are so blessed to parent in a time where great help with parenting is so readily available.
If you want one of my most profound tips on parenting; forgive yourself for all that you have done wrong, for all the times you’ve parented poorly despite your great intentions. The more you can forgive yourself, no matter how bad you feel your parenting was, the bigger the gift you will be giving your children, and yourself. You can stop major family dysfunction by implementing this crucial tip, and make your family the loving, gentle and safe haven that you want it to be.