I’m sure this title will enrage some people. Anyone who has chosen to be a parent understands that the love from parent to child feels like the very definition of unconditional. I know, I get it. The love I have for my daughter is larger and more powerful than anyone could have ever explained to me. However, when it comes time to teach and model, are we capable of recognizing when our own psychological wounds are getting in the way?
Before I go on, I need to say that we never exist completely devoid of our wounds and of our less helpful behavioral patterns. Our less-than-perfectness is what makes us beautifully human. However, when we have chosen to move away from patterns that are no longer serving us, we must recognize when they are affecting our behavior and especially when they are affecting our parenting.
Here’s an example. I ran into an acquaintance of mine years back and she was with her daughter of 7 years old. I remember this person as always being very sweet, caring and respectful of other people. She’d sometimes be nice to a fault – always putting the needs of others before hers and unnecessarily sacrificing her own feelings. When we were parting ways that day, I remember her saying to her daughter, “Give Anna-Maria a hug please…NOW!” It felt so awkward because it was clear that this girl really did not want to give me a hug. Can you see how this woman’s wounds influenced her parenting behavior that day? I can’t say this for certain but it may be the case that her daughter was being taught that being nice to others is more important than the way she feels. Ouch, this will hurt later.
I don’t know about you but I can think of ways that my wounds and preferences get in the way of my parenting too. Ever feel super frustrated when your 14-month old throws all of her food on the floor, piece by piece? My husband and I began raising our voices and acting stern with our daughter when she did this. Truth is, our frustration was more about hating the cleanup than wanting to teach her something. Guilty as charged. I felt even guiltier when I realized that she was simply experimenting and exploring her environment and actually not trying to torment us. This was a clear example of how my parenting was based more on what I wanted (cleanliness) than what she wanted and needed at her developmental stage (exploration and discovery).
I strongly recommend that when you are teaching, modeling, and parenting, you ask yourself the questions, “Is this intervention about me or is it about them? For whose benefit am I doing this?” At every single one of your children’s developmental stages, I guarantee that you will learn something new about yourself.