How We Get Parenting Wrong

Disclaimer: this is based on my experience in parenting and in teaching. I recommend reading works by Dr. Shafali and I recommend consideration of your own child’s special care needs.

I got triggered today by a post about parenting.

It stated that kids today are out of control because parents are too nice and don’t hit their kids enough. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea. And perhaps you have seen it, too.

So let’s jump to lesson 1: abuse is not ok.

By abuse, I mean hitting, beating, threatening, emotionally bullying, mentally torturing, sexualizing, or any other form by which people in power historically have attempted to “control” others. I mean considering a person under you, less valued than you, or less human than you. Not ok.

So, if I don’t beat my children, how do I make them submissive? Short answer: I don’t.

Think about how you want your daughter to be as an adult. Do you want her to be submissive to an abuser? Do you want her to live a small life and pretend she doesn’t matter? Do you want her to replicate all of that to the next generation? I hope your answer is a resounding “no.”

Here’s the big lesson: Your child is not here to be controlled. Your child is here on purpose, for purpose. Your job is to guide, not to squelch.

The next generation comes into this world from the divine. You know that on some level. Babies are incredibly deep, wise, and divine, especially before we get our hands on them. Why else would they be such a wonder?

As babies age, they start to develop an ego and ways of the world, and our job is to guide them to be true to their divine spirit. This implies trying our best to not push our own ego onto them, but to remain open to the true nature of the spirit of the child herself.

So, what about an out-of-control child?

If a child has rage or is acting out, your job should be to start asking questions. Stay in the question mode for a while. Ask your child to get the best answers you possibly can. And then start working through solutions with your child.

Your child might need consequences for actions, which is different from abuse.

Consequences are “if this, then that,” and they need to make sense. Like, if you parked in a handicap zone and didn’t have a handicap sticker, you get fined. Not beaten with a hammer, hopefully, just fined. Think in those terms with your child. If you don’t do your piece as a citizen of this household, then you can be “fined” in terms of whatever your household considers a fine.

For us, one child’s fines were her dolls (temporarily), and for the other, it was time out of play. It was very matter-of-fact. “If you throw your food at dinner, your doll will live on the high shelf tonight.” If she threw her food, I picked up the doll, and put her on the shelf. At one time, we had all of her dolls.

But that didn’t mean that we demeaned her as a person, added anger and resentment to the consequence, or pulled emotional triggers. We just followed the protocol we had set. And it worked (it took years, people. This is not a one-time thing).

No yelling and no name calling.

This goes for everyone in the household. Parents to parents, parents to kids, kids to kids. You just have an honor code that yelling and name calling simply are not appropriate and so we just don’t do that. It’s hurtful and damaging. If you’re angry, you talk about it and find a next step toward a solution.

That way, our kids don’t grow up thinking relationships should include insult and injury. They know someone who yells and calls names isn’t part of their inner circle, so they simply don’t tolerate it. If a friend makes them angry, they will say something like “you upset me and I think I deserve an apology.” Then, they can move forward.

Love the person that is in front of you.

Love THAT person. Not the person you wish she were or that you want her to be. Love HER, exactly right now. Not “in spite of” her difference, but BECAUSE of them. This is unconditional love, and if you’re going to say you love your child, you behave your way into loving them. Unconditionally.

This doesn’t mean you don’t want better for them or that you don’t have some guidance to give them. This means you don’t withhold love because of the way they are or the choices they have made. Period.

Guidance is just that: Guidance.

As parents, we simply have world experience. Our experience helps us guide people as they go through similar stuff. When kids are making life decisions, your guidance should be simple but open. Like “oh that sounds like a great plan for after high school, but did you also see this as an option? I just want to share this piece with you and let you look at it. OK?”

Don’t force an immediate decision and don’t harp on it. Kids need time to process. And honestly, kids need to believe it’s their own idea. Which parts of it might be… you just guided them in a healthy way.

Your child is not an extension of you.

Just because it’s your body parts that made this other person, it doesn’t mean this kid is an extension of you. One of our biggest mistakes is the whole “I didn’t make it but I’ll make sure my kid does” projection. Forcing your kid into a role she doesn’t want doesn’t work, and making her out to be “just like me” doesn’t work. She is herself, sent by God or the Divine, to be exactly her. You are simply the earthly guide for this lifetime.

There is plenty to say about all of this and much more around parenting that I would like to discuss in later posts and chapters, so for now, just know that yes, parenting is the hardest job ever. EVER. You’ll fall down, say the wrong thing, and get angry sometimes.

But you’re the adult and the parent here. Self regulation and emotional regulation are key. So if you struggle with these concepts, I suggest therapy and self help first, because you can only be your best self if you have learned to parent yourself first.

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