We all have moments when we wished we could be a better parent and thought about how we could have handled situations better. It is human nature for us to want to be the best parent we can be… For our children. Sadly though, the desire to be a better parent can be felt as a burden of guilt because often our expectations of being a ‘great parent’ are unrealistic. It shouldn’t be like this. The fact of the matter is, there is no such thing as a perfect parent and you can’t be a better parent to any degree without finding the capacity to reflect on yourself first. To be a better parent, I think it makes sense to try to be a better person first.
Most often, the capacity to parent better comes from a realistic path to personal growth. You can read two hundred parenting articles online, read popular parent books and pay for expensive online parenting courses but lets be realistic. Unless you have the capacity to reflect on yourself first and the challenges that surface within you, things will likely stay the same. This is me now, starting down a realistic path to personal growth, with the latent desire to become a better parent through the journey.
This is where I am at… I’ll tell you how I plan to do it in a minute, but first let me explain what i have learnt and why personal growth is the best pathway to be a better parent (for me).
Personal growth first
I’ve been reflecting on how to be a better parent lately, as sometimes I feel like I fall into a rut of stress and rush of the daily grind. The painfully slow, yet chaotically fast days can creep up on you like a Zombie from that crazy Minecraft game, and it makes you feel like you have taken every wrong turn to get no where. When I am finding it difficult to cope with the mental load of being a mother, I easily fall into negative habits and start reacting badly to situations. Sometimes I snap at my children, I frown, complain, and worst of all I blame others for my bad reaction, even them sometimes! Not proud of it whatsoever and this is where the guilt develops from. I realise blame gets you nowhere besides going around in a circle. This burden of guilt can eat you from the inside and make you feel worse.
The thing is though, I know better. I feel even more guilty because I have done several positive parenting courses, I have a psychology degree, I have a diploma of counselling with effective parenting, I have studied child development and childcare and yes, I have read many many parenting books too.
It’s all in there!
I am sure like many other parents, you know better, you have the knowledge and it all makes perfect sense. However, to actually put it into practice in your own situation, particularly when you are feeling pressure and stress? It is much harder than simply ‘knowing better’. Having this knowledge is meaningless unless you first reflect on yourself; address your own challenges and challenge your own ideals.
I recently did the circle of security parents course. It was a thought provoking and unique course that approached parenting in a different view; by addressing security and attachment. This made me realise that I need to stop reacting to situations when I am stressed and start reflecting on myself and why I keep reacting to the same situations in the same way. I concluded that I need to develop myself as a person, to respond better as a parent. I need to challenge and reflect on my struggles in a different view. In a positive view, instead of as a pessimist. Oh, and I need to let go of that guilt…
One of the most interesting points that surfaced was the philosophy that as parents we have certain parenting struggles engrained in us, from our upbringing or the way we were parented. However, they are not necessarily issues, we just perceive them this way. What does that mean? In the course, this was referred to as “shark music”, the fear of a situation that isn’t scary. (Like as if you hear the jaws music while approaching a beach, and then become scared that a shark is there, when it is actually not). So it is the fear of something that’s not there, solely because you have an uncomfortable niggling feeling within yourself.
Breaking the cycle
It might sound abstract, but when put into practise it makes perfect sense. For example, as a child, if your mother was tense and showed anxiety any time you cried and then proceeded to distract you with bubbling happiness and fun toys, attachment theory suggests you read this as “oh, it’s not ok to cry; this makes mother uncomfortable – she can’t support me when I’m this upset”. If it continues frequently, you might perceive that the emotion of sadness is something you can’t trust or express and thus, you’re never taught to address it or cope with it. You probably wouldn’t feel comfortable in sharing sadness with your mother either.
This ‘Shark music’ re-occurs as a parent when certain situations arise, your child acts or behaves in a certain way and as a reaction, in the back of the parent’s mind, there is an annoying niggling intensity of uncomfortableness. For example, the child that was raised in the situation above grows into a parent and experiences the same situation with their child. They feel ‘shark music’ in the back of their head every time their child cries because they are not comfortable with this emotion.
It’s not really about the child crying! Children cry and it’s our job to help them manage their emotions, organise their feelings and cope with them in effective ways. The niggling feeling is something within the parent – something the parent is not comfortable with. Thus, these uncomfortable feelings or intensities are within our own perception, possibly instilled in your own upbringing. It’s being uncomfortable or afraid of dealing with something, that’s not there. This is often the culprit for bad reactions.
In light of this, I have started to reflect on these moments. Not trying to work out why they are there (that would probably require years of therapy lol) just building the capacity to acknowledge them and put them to the side. Here and Now. That way I can respond in better ways. So, on days when I feel this uptight niggling feeling time and time again, I have found that if I have this shark music feeling I pause, say to myself ‘that feeling is me, not them: They have a need and it’s my job to teach them and be there for them’ it helps. This may sound melodramatic, but for me that is all it takes to give myself a moment to acknowledge the present feeling, let it pass and respond in the way I want to.
Becoming a better person, to be a better parent
Through this process I have realised I need to do a hell of a lot more self-reflecting and I need to work on myself first. Parents put their children first, and it’s a tough job, but realistically you can’t change the way you parent or the way you respond to your children, without first changing your mindfulness and resetting your own ideals.
Welcoming spring, I have pledged to be a better parent by first being a better person. As such, I plan to use this beautiful journal that was recently released by my friend Chelsea. This is her newest book, Little Questions that make a big difference. Check it out – (Click here).
I am so pleased to be starting this journal because it really encourages personal growth, not just as a parent but as a person in general. These little questions are a simple and realistic way to start your path to personal journey. Rather than trying to figure out how to “fix” any frustrations you have in your child’s behaviour, this book guides and encourages parents to look at themselves and their ideals. There are different key areas in the book that encourage and inspire you to develop as a person and discover more about who you want to be and who you are in your relationships and roles. It is a realistic pathway to self improvement and a simple way to improve your confidence as a parent.
Thanks for reading this personal post.
If you have anything to add or share I would love to hear from you.