To be a parent is to taste the agony and ecstasy of being human. It is more complicated than many of us thought it would be ~ Especially when you have a challenging child.
Parenting can reduce successful men and women into a stressful state of confusion. Adults who see themselves as spiritual seekers are shocked at the negative feelings that can suddenly wash over them. Daily struggles turn love and adoration into a cycle of worry and control. Parenting kicks up our deepest wounds while presenting opportunities to live in our highest form of unconditional love.
It seems easier to love with unconditional abandon when you live with a child who has a mellow, laid-back spirit. These are the kids who handle disappointment easily and rarely protest when you say, “No” or “Hurry Up.”
Ah, but those feisty ones, the children who seem overly sensitive and have meltdowns in the middle of the shopping malls…how do you stay in love with them while dealing with their intense reactions? It is particularly challenging to remain calm and centered while the whole world seems to be watching. You can just feel how others are judging your parenting skills and condemning your child.
When we dream about becoming parents we rarely look forward to sending children to ‘time-out’ corners or threatening them with punishments. How is it then that so many reasonably sane adults lose their balance when coping with their highly spirited kids?
They push our buttons; that’s why.
We blame them for pushing our buttons. We are convinced they need to change.
Frustration builds when we spend our energy trying to control them instead of learning how to meet their needs in an emotionally healthy way.
My own experiences as a child development specialist and as the mother of one of these freedom-seeking children have led me on a journey of transformation. Opening my mind and heart has been the key to giving up control and moving from fear into trust.
The steps I took are simple, but they required the willingness to give up old ways of thinking, especially when I was sure that my way was best.
The first step is willingness to see beyond behavior into the inner world of a child. I came to understand that temperament is something we are born with and just like the color of eyes or the shape of a nose, no parent gets to choose their child’s hard wiring. If your child is active, intense, sensitive, easily distracted, or freedom seeking, you must stop interpreting behavior as a flagrant disrespect of your authority. The more you understand each of your children’s unique temperaments, the more empowered you will feel in responding to their natural way of reacting to a demanding world.
My next step was in moving past my intellect and asking Spirit for help. While I had studied child psychology and developmentally appropriate practices at the University level, it wasn’t until I saw my daughter through the eyes of her Creator that I was able to let go of trying to shape her into the child I thought she should be and began to accept her exactly as she was.
The result of taking these two steps was the realization that nothing was wrong. I did not have to fix or change anything. Once we recognize that our children come into physical life exactly as they are meant to be, we become open to doing our work ~ accepting and adoring them as they are.
The challenge, of course, is figuring out how to guide and support a child who cannot play this game of life by the pre-established rules. It sometimes feels impossible to validate their perspective and depth of spirit when we ache for them to be appreciated and accepted by strongly opinionated family, a test oriented school system and a society that lives by hypocritical standards of appropriate behavior.
This challenge led me to the next step, which was giving up my Ego. I had to stop worrying what other people thought. I had to care more about how my child was experiencing life than looking good in the eyes of friends and relatives. I began to release my own childhood story about being a good girl and pleasing others. I trusted my gut and realized that when my parenting responses felt good, felt connected to the truth of my own soul, felt in alignment with something greater than myself, that I was on the right path. When we stop interpreting our child’s nature as a problem that needs to be corrected, we become free to enjoy our child’s unique sense of self. I discovered that once kids start to feel understood and validated, their sweet, responsible, kind, cooperative dispositions begin to shine through.
This does not mean that we let children run wild and become self-indulgent or irresponsible. We can learn how to create boundaries and set limits within an environment that honors our child’s temperament. I continued to hold high standards while being mindful not to compare my daughter’s responses with the style of her easy-going brother. Her dad and I made a conscious decision to really listen when she said something didn’t feel right, smelled funny, tasted yucky or was too loud. We accepted the probability that she would walk a unique path and we honored her courage and determination to live authentically.
You can make a decision to strengthen your relationship with your children. Create your own first step. Pick a day when you are relaxed and do not give any unsolicited advice. Spend time together with the single intention of getting to know each unique child. Purposely savor their deliciousness and ask for their opinions. Try to only notice the good stuff. In order to accomplish this you might have to spend some one-on-one time together.
If they do something inappropriate, wonder out loud what they might be experiencing that is causing the behavior. Refuse to use guilt or shame as a way of controlling them, and talk instead about their inside feelings. Take off your mask of ‘knowing it all’ and become more ‘real’ with your child. It takes time and patience to nurture authentic relationships.
There will be times when this commitment feels overwhelming and you’ll need some help. That’s the signal to get quiet, be still and connect with your soul. In that space you just may sense a thought that comes from a knowing that transcends space and time. The willingness to follow that gentle guidance is the pivotal moment when the magic will begin.
It is quite possible that one day you will realize that your most challenging child came into your life to be your greatest teacher.
“Parenting kicks up our deepest wounds while presenting opportunities to live in our highest form of unconditional love.”
This article was originally published in Simple Steps, Real Change Magazine