Those of you who have read and responded to my previous articles are aware of my intention to make a positive contribution to parents who are dealing with the challenges of raising loving, peaceful children while, at times, not feeling loving, peaceful, generous or joyful themselves.
The beliefs of our culture and the desire to fit in and be judged positively by society can indeed be quite stressful if your personal values and goals for children are at odds with the messages you receive from family, friends, and the media.
What were your feelings the very first time that you held that baby in your arms? How did you envision yourself and that child in the future? How closely does that present correspond with how you intended and expected it to be?
Did you anticipate being in a loving parent-child relationship, gratified by your parental choices, and appreciated by your children? Did you expect to create and receive joy in a loving, peaceful household?
Many of us, with the best intentions, have subordinated our instinctive caring attitudes, and succumbed to that which is generally accepted. Expressing love through anger, feeling victimized by ungrateful children, despairing of ever achieving our goals in light of remorse about past actions and worries about what lies ahead.... So many things hinder our ability to be present in the moment and appreciative of our unique, very special children.
The discomfort and distress engendered by the desire to do the right thing versus the desire to be right, can indeed be a troubling predicament. When your children speak to you, do you fully listen, totally aware of what they are saying, or are you thinking of something else, perhaps getting ready to counter their argument with some points of your own? One child said to me, "Whenever I speak to her, she's always plotting what she's going to say next".
Sometimes, despite the internal awareness of loving our children, we act in ways that do not display that love. Many times, in my office setting, I have gently intervened when a parent has expressed disapproval to a child who was not intentionally being bad, just creative or curious, or perhaps needing the parent's attention in the only way available, by negative behavior. Do you catch your children being good, and praise them for it? Do you unexpectedly overlook some problem such as a messy room or clothes that don't match?
Or, do you use power and intimidation to elicit certain behavior, and if so, does that in essence diminish you, as a person not in control of your emotions?
We all respond better to praise rather than to criticism. How would you feel if your colleague or spouse spoke to you the way that you sometimes speak to your children? Would you feel less respected and react with anger, thus perpetuating the negative emotions?
Would you be pleasantly surprised and genuinely supportive if one of those people humbly apologized and accepted responsibility for untoward behavior?
What if somebody said that they admire you and wanted to be more like you? How would that make you feel? Have you ever told your children that you admire and respect them and wanted to be more like them?
Have you ever wanted to be more like your children? More innocent? Playful? Curious? Loving? Accepting? Living in the moment? Not judging or being judged?
What beliefs do you hold about what it takes to be a good parent? Which of these beliefs would you be willing to question, and possibly give up, in order to find inner peace and personal fulfillment?
Would you be willing to sometimes give up control? Would you be willing to acknowledge that you're not in control anyway, as life is unpredictable and constantly changing? Would you agree that sometimes your preconceived notions about how to achieve happiness and peace are not working for you, and yet you are still insisting on these values for your children?