WARNING: This post may trigger some parents. This post is in no way meant to hurt your self-esteem, merely create awareness of it. If it does upset or trigger you, that’s okay. Try understand what I’m saying with an open mind and a compassionate heart.
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“Why are you giving me such a hard time?”
“What is wrong with you?”
“You are acting like such a brat!”
Do any of these sound familiar? Have you found yourself saying any, or all, of these statements to your kids in the heat of a very tense or emotional moment? I have. 99.9999% of the time statements like these came out of my mouth when my daughter was mid-tantrum (and usually in a public venue). They would fly out of my mouth, and the second I said it I instantly regretted it.
But this was before I started becoming aware of how I was parenting, and if this was really the kind of parent I wanted to be. This was before I started asking myself questions like; What kind of example was I setting for my child, and what kind of an example did I want to set? Did I want to be a mom that was always screaming at her kids? Did I want to feel emotionally drained and guilty after every altercation, or after every time my child pushed my boundaries? Where did these boundaries come from that I had just accepted to be in place? Where did my parenting style come from, and did I fully believe in it? It was before ‘Conscious’ or ‘Mindful’ parenting had become a thing.
Earlier this week I put a poll up on my Instagram story asking parents if they wanted a series of tips on how to build the self-esteem of their kids, and the votes were unanimous – 100% yes! But before I jump into this very important subject – I want to take a moment to talk about a topic equally as important.
The Self-Esteem of the parent!
Our children are not in this world to build our self-esteem, we are here to build theirs. Granted, having a healthy self-esteem is something that a good percentage of the global population is constantly working towards, so it can be tough on a parent to manage this while still actively trying to lay the foundation for a healthy self-esteem in your children. The statements that I included above are not just things that have personally left my mouth, but I have heard come out of the mouths of many a parent. And again, they usually come as a result of a very emotional, frustrated, and/or angry parent after a tantrum or conflict of some sort. And typically involves the child shouting how ugly or dumb you are, or (the low blow) that they hate your guts. My girl used to tell me that I was breaking her heart every time there was an altercation – and, I’m sure you can imagine, this would break my heart into a thousand tiny pieces!
BUT! Is it about you?
Should you treat it like it is about you?
A child loves thier parents no matter what. No matter what. So whatever comes out of their mouths when they’re angry and frustrated isn’t relevant. And it’s never about you. (Unless it is relevant feedback, of course.)
By taking these things personally is a selfish act, and typically indicative that your own self-esteem could use a little work.
Conscious parents listen to what is behind these tantrums.
It can take a little practice, emotional awareness (on your part), patience, and compassion, but understanding the reason behind the tantrum can be a far more effective strategy to dissolving the situation and avoiding further emotional upset, than simply taking things personally and becoming more frustrated – which helps no one! Empathy with the overwhelming feelings of your child will get you a lot further when it comes to connecting with your child, building your child’s self-worth and helping them handle their emotions in less destructive ways than telling your child off or letting your self-esteem be hurt by the harsh words.
Your child is not responsible for your feelings. You are.
Remember that you were once a child too. A child afraid of the dark, afraid that mom and dad would disappear, envious of other children’s toys, a child who felt like they were being left out or wanted attention, a child annoyed when mom or dad told you to go to bed or turn off the TV. Remember that?
A good majority of the time, tantrums come from your LO being tired, over-stimulated, or simply trying to make sense of their world. Their little ego is born during the ages 18 months – 4 y/o, as a result of the realisation that they are actually a separate entity from their mothers. This stage in a child’s life is also referred to as the “terrible 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s… frustration felt by parents as their LO’s begin to push boundaries and define the limits of their new reality as separate beings from their parents. If you’d like to understand more about this, read here.
As adults and parents, we may often think that our child’s views are narrow-minded, that they lack perspective and that we always know what’s best for them, so they should do what we tell them to. Because we know better, right? But you also know that your child will do what you do, not what you say. If you take the time to listen to your child, empathise with their thoughts and feelings, and try your very best to communicate with them in an age-appropriate way and find the best solution where the child will feel that their needs have been met, chances are a lot higher that they will do the same for you.
If you don’t listen to your child, why should your child listen to you (or anyone else)?
If you yell at your child, why should he or she act differently when feeling upset?
If you prioritise your own interests, feelings, and needs, how will your child learn to care about others?
So what if every day starting now, you started practicing patience, empathy, compassion, and emotional awareness (your own)…imagine how that will make your children feel and act.