Can you think of anything more important to your children than you being a happy and fulfilled parent? Think back to your own childhood. Were your parents happy, peaceful, and fulfilled? Were they filled with joy and laughter? Were they loving and supportive of you, themselves and each other? Mine weren’t. My mother was constantly anxious and worried about everything. She was often angry at me, no matter how good I was. She and my father often fought. My father was usually withdrawn and often angry as well. There was almost constant tension in the home. They generally seemed to be unhappy.
Learn how to be a role model for your child
I would have given anything for my parents to be relaxed and peaceful. I would have given anything for them to be loving with each other and with me. I wanted them to be happy, to be fulfilled, and to be filled with joy and laughter. I wanted them to role-model for me how to be have high self-esteem, how to feel safe and secure, how to give and receive love, and how to lovingly resolve conflict. They couldn’t do this for me because they didn’t know how to do these things for themselves.
Kids want — and need — strong role models
What your children need from you is for you to learn how to be this role-model for them. No matter how much time and material things you give to your children, if your presence with them is tense instead of joyful and peaceful, they will not be getting what they need from you.
You can give them wonderful toys, send them to the best schools, take incredible vacations, provide enriching activities — and all this would be the icing in the cake. But it’s not the cake. The cake, the foundation, is you being a wonderful role model of self-care and caring about others.
This means that you need to learn to take full, 100% responsibility for your own feelings of joy and pain, of peace and of tension. It means that the very best thing you can do for your children is to be on your own inner growth path.
Learn to stress less and embrace parenting your child
When Katie had her first child, she was determined to be a wonderful mother. She read everything she could about loving parenting and was devoted to being there 100% for her little daughter. Yet within the first years of Amanda’s little life, she was showing signs of stress — not sleeping well, being cranky a lot, not being easily soothed.
While visiting Katie and her husband Rob one day, I noticed that Katie was often very critical of Rob, and Rob would just take it without saying anything. In Katie’s eyes, Rob was incompetent and couldn’t do anything right for Amanda. Katie had read all the books and she believed she knew the right way to parent.
What she didn’t realize was that the constant tension that existed between her and Rob was being absorbed by Amanda. Amanda was manifesting the stress that Katie was dumping onto Rob, and that Rob was swallowing. The dynamic of Katie thinking that she was right and trying to control Rob, and Rob not taking care of himself in the face of the criticism, was not only very poor role-modeling for Amanda, but was causing her much stress.
Neither Katie nor Rob were taking responsibility for their own feelings. Katie was dealing with her stress by trying to control Rob with criticism, and Rob was dealing with his stress by trying to control Katie with his compliance and silence. The resulting energy was too much for Amanda. It was difficult for me as well!
I decided to speak up with my friends in the hope they would be open to my perceptions. Fortunately, they were grateful for the information and began to make some changes in their relationship system. As their stress gradually diminished, so did Amanda’s.