Submitted by Raelynn Maloney, Ph.D. Author of Waking Up: A Parent’s Guide to Mindful Awareness and Connection www.wakingupwithawareness.com Owner and Director of A Mindful Place 1950 West Littleton Boulevard, Suite 117. Littleton, Colorado 80120. 303-358.6561 www.amindfulplace.com
Every child is gifted with a simple form of logic and honesty that can reveal a timeless wisdom to all parents. However, when a child shares his/her wisdom in a way that feels like a personal attack, the common response from a parent is to become defensive and shut the conversation down.
Creating a relationship that allows a child to “hold a mirror up” to you as a parent can be challenging at first, but it will strengthen the parent-child connection in powerful ways. When we are willing to hear and see how our children are experiencing us – that is, “when I am willing to see the way my child sees me” – we are gifted with information that will enable us to grow and deepen as parents. Your child’s wisdom will not benefit anyone if you perceive your child’s words as a personal attack. If you are able to listen objectively and embrace what is shared simply as information, everyone benefits.
Try to use and remember the mantra, “it’s not personal, it’s information” as you listen to your child.
In my counseling practice, there is a simple question that opens a flood gate of information about what children SEE when they look at us as parents. When I ask the question, “What are you learning from your parents?” I am given a glimpse into the relationship rules a child is learning through their parent-child relationship. The wisdom in their answers can cause many parents to struggle to accept the truth in the information. When they can accept it for what it is, however – simply as information – they soon realize that it is not a stamp on their performance as a parent, but the beginning of a new dialogue that will deepen and enhance the parent-child connection.
It is important to know how your child SEES and EXPERIENCES you as a parent.
Here are some of the not-so-perfect relationship rules children express when asked, “What are you learning from your parents?”:
I’m learning to raise my voice to get people to listen to me.
I’m learning to hurry because we are always late.
I’m learning to focus on what is “wrong” with people instead of what is “right” about them.
I’m learning to say sorry and then quickly give a reason for what I did wrong.
I’m learning that it’s okay to focus on what the other person did wrong instead of what I did wrong.
I’m learning to use bad words when I’m irritated.
I’m learning to shake my fist at someone if they upset me.
I’m learning to use threats.
I’m learning to talk and text while driving.
I’m learning to ignore someone when you don’t like what they say.
I hear an equal number of positive relationship rules and these are often much easier to take in as parents (for example, I’m learning to that families love eachother even when they are angry). Kids hold mirrors up to us all the time. Though we may not take every word as something we need to change, it is important to pay attention and find the wisdom in what they are saying.
Take time in the next 24 hours to listen and to see what your child is teaching you through that mirror! Make a conscious decision about whether or not this is how you want to continue to have your child SEE you. If not, ask yourself, “what is one thing I would like to consciously focus on improving when I am with my child?”