I have always believed that we are all so different and unique, heck I even wrote a book on it. But recently I have had radical healing and have had an awakening.
With my own awakening and awareness, I was noticing the condition that we had already imprinted onto our children who are only 4, 2 and 1 years old. I am committed to breaking the cycle and allowing our children to have the best opportunity to truly live from a soul level, knowing their true authentic selves rather than what the world and us condition on them. Because I know now, at 34 years old, this is the true meaning of happiness and inner peace.
Moments of awareness that changed me to become a conscious parent:
During my awakening, I had many moments and snippets and subconsciously knew that what the children said and did were direct copies from us. But it wasn’t until I decided, every day, every encounter with the kids, that I would be an observer of their egos and mine and would be very conscious of the words and actions that I did moving forward.
There were two pivotal moments that reminded me I was awake and consciously parenting. My middle son said to me on a bike ride, after I had praised him for being road safe, “Mummy I am a good boy like Hunter”. It somewhat broke my heart, at 2 years old, he was conditioned, of what is good and bad (or what I BELIEVED was good or bad and if he didn’t fit into that ideology than he would be “bad” in his eyes, rather than an action possibly not being the right choice). This is the quick road to low self-esteem, which ironically as an adult I was trying to heal myself from. Archie has always been the spirited and free-willed child which I absolutely love about him but he is very different from his people-pleasing brother. That statement from Archie reminded me, ok, now you need to make a change, not just for Archie but for Hunter (and Evie too). The second time that I knew I was waking was when I was doing my own research for my own healing when I came across something that described how regulation of emotions starts in infants. A baby cries and everyone rushes to soothe their needs which is what is needed as they are too young to learn self-regulation. Toddlers continue with this need to be heard by crying, screaming or having the typical “tantrum” because they know no better. It is how their needs have always been met. As adults we may continue this behaviour (scream, shout until we are heard) or even become passive-aggressive which is another form of emotional manipulation, however, it all comes down to the fact: we want our needs met and the only we know how to do that is if someone else does it for us. As adults, we think others can fix our problems (‘offloading’ to our friends, finding a partner to save us or finding validation from our careers or achievements).
Self-regulation of emotions is something that needs to be witnessed and taught as children don’t know how to do this so it needs to be a combination of you doing it with your own emotional self-regulation (so them witnessing you do it for yourself) and you allow them to self regulate their emotions.
A scenario that may feel very common in most family households.
I was getting breakfast ready in the morning with 3 children. Like most parents, I had to get all 3 children and myself, dressed, fed, teeth brushed and in the car before 730am to take Hunter to pre K. Hunter had a meltdown because when he was eating his toast, it tore a bit or as he described it ‘the toast was now broken’. This quickly escalated into tears because he no longer wanted to eat his toast. A very common dilemma for children, and yet very real emotions for him.
In the past when I wasn’t consciously parenting (not better or worst, I was just doing the best I knew, at that moment in time), I would have either said a few things:
- “you are ok mate, it isn’t a big deal” – what this says to children is, my emotions aren’t valid, they aren’t a big deal, therefore, the emotion gets buried and may come out later in the day when his brother might take his toy. All this does is, it suppresses the emotion. I always try to think to myself, how would I like it if someone told me, it isn’t a big deal (your emotions, tears, pain or feelings aren’t a big deal and basically get over it?). This was conditioning that was passed onto me, which again my parents were just doing their best at the time. I often was told when someone said something means, ‘sticks and stones will break your bones but words can never hurt you’. Again a way to suppress the emotions rather than feel them.
- “I will get you another piece of toast” – what this says to children, and without judgement of busy parents who have so much to do and just want the tantrum over and done with is, all I need to do is cry, scream and you will give me what I want and I heavily rely on YOU (the other) to fix how I feel rather than work through it myself.
- “There are children who have no food at all, stop crying and be grateful for what you have” – this is in itself is true and important to highlight to children but in a heightened and stressed state, this just says to them, other people’s needs are more important than mine. Think about if someone said this to you when you were upset about something, and disregarded your feelings and told you that someone else is worse off than you, in a neutral state this is fine but in a stressed state all this can do is teach you to suppress your emotions. Plus it is using gratitude in a negative state.
- Or very commonly, I would lose my temper or get angry and frustrated in the moment, which is only teaching children; this is how you act when you don’t get your own way, when someone doesn’t think the same way as you or most importantly, this is how you act when you have an uncomfortable feeling. They learn from what we do and how we regulate our own emotions.
So what did I do this time around that was different?
- I acknowledged him and his pain. I can see you are very upset about this, how is this making you feel? This made him more determined to get me to just give him another piece of toast which made him more upset, which is ok, because this is him in a state of fear (she won’t give me what I want, what does that mean about me and my situation, I don’t know how to deal with this?) (possibly this might sound familiar for you too, with your own crisis’ as an adult.
- Let him feel. I let him cry, then scream, and then get angry (he was stomping his feet) I didn’t ignore him, but I just let him get it out. I reassured him tears are ok as well as anger is ok too. As long as he isn’t hurting himself or anyone else.
- I hugged him. After he got those emotions out (which the tears kept coming), I hugged him and reminded him, he is safe, and he will be ok, and he is loved. He still wanted that toast though but I just held him for a little bit. I tried to make sure I acknowledged and let him feel what he needs to before hugging him so he doesn’t feel patronised or his emotions suppressed.
- 3 deep breaths. I took 3 deep breaths and asked him to join me. He didn’t. But I did them anyway.
- I gave him some options. You can either eat the toast, have a break or you can eat nothing before school. He pushed the plate away and I continued on with feeding Evie.
- I repeated the above steps as much as I needed to. After going through it again, when we went to the breathing, he started to do it with me. I then told him about his choices. He sat in silence for a bit and then started to eat his toast.
- Celebrate the wins. We facetimed his Dad to explain how he had self-regulated his emotions on his own. He was really proud of himself because it was something he achieved. By celebrating this win it grounded the experience for him so it would become a memory so he could look back on it as a self-esteem building as well as how to self regulate emotions.
Children are like sponges, they will learn this really quickly so don’t judge yourself if you are only starting now, remember in the words of Maya Angelou, you did the best you could do with what you knew, and when you knew better you did better.
I understand this can be really challenging to do, especially when we have other children or we have to be somewhere or we are out, I have been there, I know how difficult it is, and how easier it is to get frustrated or ignore them or just give them what they want. I always suggest starting with YOU. Use these opportunities to find what is triggering for you? Why can’t you make space for them to feel and self regulate? Do this without judging yourself. Before guiding and facilitating our children, work on ourselves as parents, heal us first and in the end, we will help others, most importantly our children. So go gently with yourself and be kind to you, shift the focus onto your own awareness, inner child and ego so you can then compassionately and consciously parent your child. Well done to you for what you do and what you will continue to do for your kids.