When asked for my parenting fails, I immediately read other contributions. They are all so cute. Easy, no big deal, parenting fails. Parenting fails that most likely won't have lasting effects, and my inner jerk is telling me, that my parenting fails are much bigger than these, so maybe I shouldn't share. But here I am.....
From ages 0-6 my son was easy. He wanted to please. He wanted my approval. I was his whole world and he was mine. Our relationship had no bumps. It was easy, flawless, and rewarding at almost every turn.
Then, out of the blue....he developed his own personality. Of course I expected this, what I didn't expect was my inability to handle the rejection.
He didn't always want to do what I was asking.
He talked back.
He said no.
He was sarcastic.
He was stubborn.
He had discovered his power.
The calm, controlled parent I had been, had a decision to make. How am I going to handle this new developing personality?
So much of how we respond to our children when angry is from our old story. How did our parents respond when they were angry? Regardless of how we WANT to respond....we have coping skills that come from our childhood. We learn by watching our parents, and just when we least expect it......if we haven't learned new skills, our parent's resurface in us when we become parents.
I found myself raising my voice.
I found myself belittling.
I found myself letting my anger control my response.
I found myself reacting.....with no thought.
I had always maintained that I would never lay my hands on my child. I stayed true to this, however, I did the same thing with my tongue. When faced with a lack of control, I became angry. I did my best to control the situation with my words, and tone of voice. My son could see the anger in my face, and feel the lack of control in my words.
I could see the fear in his face.
I could see the cycle continuing.
I could see where this would lead us.
The moment I saw fear in my son's eyes when he looked at me, will forever be the moment our lives changed.
I realized, I had to learn how to be a parent. I had to learn how to respond instead of react. In the absence of positive role models around anger, I had simply watched and learned. I had no idea this was present in me, until my beautiful child's face was red and streaming with tears as he looked into the eyes of the person he loved most.
I looked back at him and decided he deserved better.....WE deserved better.
I went all in. Went back to school for my passion, which was counseling, and learned more about myself, which led to healing, growth and skill building.
I apologized to my son, and we started over.
I became a parent who responds, and doesn't react.
I became a safe place, even when he was naughty.
I became a parent who welcomes mistakes, as they provide opportunities for growth.
I became a role model.
I became a cycle breaker.
Every chance I get, I share my message. Just because you aren't physically abusive, doesn't mean you aren't an abuser. It doesn't mean you aren't modeling the wrong skills, but expecting better from your children.
Take the time, to be mindful of who you are and who you come from. Are you continuing cycles? Are you reacting when you feel out of control? Be mindful of the words you are using with your children. It's the words that leave a lasting impression.
Today, my 13 year old son and I enjoy an extremely close relationship. He has never mentioned how I used to respond, and when asked, he doesn't seem to remember. I am lucky. His memories are full of a mom who is safe and as far as he is concerned, always has been. I am much harder on myself, but as a work in progress, I continue to be mindful of my emotions, and thoughts before words come out of my mouth.
If you see yourself in my story, I encourage you to simply say it out loud to yourself and expect better of YOU. It's a process, and involves skill building and mindfulness. It is never too late to break cycles.
I am sharing what I've learned in my community at www.facebook.com/groundedone/ and www.groundedblog.com