Being a better parent (Part 1)
This article was first published on KSL.COM
We have a daughter that we are struggling with. She is independent and stubborn and she rebels against everything we say. She has also rejected our religion, which causes us great heartache, and she is very disrespectful. We are really at a loss at what else to do to control her and wondered if you had any advice? Do you ever work with wayward teens or young adults?
I do recommend coaching for some teens, but it is usually much more effective to get the parents in coaching. You (the parents) are the ones who have the power to change the relationship with your child. You are the only one who can.
My advice to you is to work on these three things: 1) Seeing your parenting job in a new way; 2) not trying to control and instead work to connect with your child; and 3) work on being more conscious — less scared and more loving. I will explain each of these in detail.
Seeing your parenting job in a new way is the first step to changing this relationship. You must remember that you are here in the classroom of life to learn and love — and you and your child are both the students and the teachers here. You will teach your child many important things, but she will probably teach you more than you will ever teach her.
In my favorite parenting book “The Conscious Parent” by Shefali Tsabary, he says, “It’s my experience that the relationship between parent and child exists for the primary purpose of the parent's transformation, and only secondary for the raising of the child.” This idea completely changed the way I parent.
Your children will be your greatest teachers and you must start seeing them this way, if you are going to repair your relationship. Your children are your greatest teachers because:
1) They have the ability to trigger your two core fears better than anyone else. When your child behaves badly, it triggers your fear of failure as a parent (looking bad) and your fear of loss (losing them). No one can scare you as well as your children, and your behavior is its worst when you are scared. It is really a beautiful thing to have these little people around you day and night who can so effectively trigger your fears and give you so many opportunities to practice growing up, trusting God, letting go of your attachments, your need for control and your need for approval. Isn’t that an amazing gift?
2) They have picked up most of your fears and bad habits and when they act out, they are usually mirroring back to you your own behavior or subconscious anger or pain. This gives you the opportunity to see it and become more conscious of why you carry that anger and pain. Have you noticed that you always struggle most with the child who is most like you? This is because they are showing you what you need to work on and it bothers you.
Tsabary says, “The inappropriate behavior of your children is a call to increased consciousness on your part”
This child is in your life to help you grow, learn and overcome your shortcomings and fears. If you see your daughter as your teacher, it will change everything. You will be more focused on changing you (the one thing you have control over) instead of trying to control her. I promise this will help.
Stop trying to control and instead work to connect with your child. I think the biggest problem in most families is that they are parenting from a place of ego, control, force, fear and neediness. (If you are doing this it is because it’s what you learned from your parents.) Your parents were probably afraid and suffering from self-esteem and anger issues, and because of this they parented with a top down style. Top down means having an "I am the boss, I have the power and the control, and you must meet my expectations and do what I say … or else" kind of attitude. Ego-driven parents are mainly focused on getting the behavior they need from their children. They need the children to make them look good and feel a sense of safety and control. (Can you own some of this in yourself?)
Imagine trying to create a relationship with a friend or co-worker from this space. Do you think they would like you? Or would they rebel and push against being treated this way? Of course they would. The oppressed and controlled always rebel.
Tsabary says if you want to connect with your child you must set aside any sense of superiority over them, let go of your expectations about how they should behave, stop trying to control them, and make your number one job being aware of your ego and fear, get it under control, and choose love toward your child.
I find it helps to remember that I am not really in charge of this child and their education - God is. He is also good at this job and doesn’t need me to control or force anyone. He just wants me to learn, serve and love.
This does not mean being overly permissive though. You must still have boundaries and discipline in your parenting, but you must enforce them from a place of trust, love, mutual respect and understanding, not from a place of force, control or ego.
You can do this by listening, honoring and respecting your child more. This is how connection happens. You must honor their unique essence, their ideas and feelings. You must ask questions and create a safe place (without judgment or fear) where they can share what they are experiencing and talk through those experiences. You could even occupy a space that says “How about we look at life and the options it presents and figure out what makes the most sense as far as your choices, and do it together?”
I once asked my son if he would be honest with me about behavior I suspected was happening. He said, I can do that mom, if you can promise me you can handle the truth without freaking out (reacting from your fear). He was asking me if I could set my stuff aside and not make his choices about me. Could I really show up for him and talk about what he was experiencing without fear and judgment in the mix? Could I keep this about him, support and love?
If you want a real connection with your daughter, you must stop trying to control her. You must put all your effort into unconditional love and connection with her. You are both struggling students in the classroom of life, with much more to learn. You must not squelch her spirit or her self-worth with disapproval and control. You can still set limits and have rules in your home, but you must enforce them with open, honest, calm, loving, rational conversations. There is a worksheet on my website for Mutually Validating Conversations that might help you learn to do this.
Work on being more conscious — less scared and more loving. Tsabary said, “To parent consciously we have to become astute observers of our own behavior when we are with our children.”
I have found a very simple way to do this. Understand that there are really only two options, In every moment you are in one of two places:
If you show up in love energy people will feel safe with you, respect and honor you, be drawn to you and want to be around you. This is the kind of energy you want in your relationship with your child, one of mutual validation, concern, respect and love.
You can create this kind of relationship but it must be earned through love-based behavior, it cannot be demanded.
Tsabary says, "While you believe your most important challenge is to raise your children well, there is a more important task you must attend to, which is the foundation of effective parenting. This task is to raise yourself into the most awakened and present individual you can be.”
This is going to take some work — but you can do it.
Click here to learn about the book "The Conscious Parent."
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a coach and speaker.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.