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When parenting is a struggle, this is how you find wisdom in yourself

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You can look for solutions, but learning to accept that there isn’t one yet, might be more helpful.

Question of conscience: what do you think when your kids are going at eachother’s throats? ‘What am I doing wrong?’, ‘Why me?’ Once you realize this happens in thousands of families, you can look at it more kindly. It’s only normal. Just put the kettle on, get yourself a cup of tea and be friendly towards yourself. Acceptance is key.

Learning to accept it

We’re so used to looking for solutions. If we’re cold, we put on a sweater, if we’re thirsty, we grab a drink. When it comes to raising children, it’s usually not that clear what we should do. You can look for a solution, but you can also learn to accept that there isn’t an ideal one yet. There’s something going on, you better learn to deal with it in stead of fight it. Just accept that you don’t always know what’s best. That’s how you find the wisdom in yourself.

Driving you crazy

Your own children know exactly which buttons to push to unleash the dragon inside you. They can drive you crazy. Do you know the feeling, when you lash out at them so hard you hardly recognize yourself? If a fight with your child stresses you out too much, you tend to go back to your earliest experiences: back to when you were raised. You stop reacting like a ‘healthy adult’, but you get in ‘vulnerable or angry child’ mode, feeling attacked, or you act like the ‘punishing or demanding parent’ you know from when you were young.

Like two angry children

Situation: my youngest comes up to me in the schoolyard, crying, saying his big brother and a friend kicked me. I ask my eldest and his friend to join us. The friend comes up to us, my eldest refuses to. He says something cheeky, I get frustrated because he doesn’t do as he’s told. Like two angry children, we lash out at eachother. In the end, he walks away and I decide to listen to the friend first. That’s how I find out that my eldest didn’t do anything, but that my youngest mentioned his name because it was hís friend and he was there too. After all, I realize that because of his aggressive behavior, I acted like the vulnerable child and then turned into the demanding parent. My eldest felt so cornered by me –his angry mother, in the middle of the schoolyard – that he immediately became defensive. A balanced grown up would probably have taken a few breath before talking to him… Fortunately, we’re never too old to learn.

Take some distance

Learning to recognize whether you are acting from your child position or from an adult from your youth, you can mention it to yourself: that’s right, I’m in this or that mode. It creates some distance, allowing you not to identify with the feeling and to take some time to react differently. We tend to push away these ‘old’ feelings, while the only way to change old patterns is by acknowledging them and allowing them to exist.

Anger is OK

That was the question of conscience asked by my mindfulness teacher about, too: can you endure your child’s emotions? Can your child be angry? When there’s anger or sadness, can you just allow it to be there, without reacting? Anger doesn’t have to be erased or solved immediately, as long as you are simply there. That makes your child feel safe to express themselves: I can be angry, mom won’t panic. You teach them all emotions are welcome: anger, fear, sadness. Acknowledge these feelings, that are often put away or hidden. Cherish them, they can teach you a lot of things (and if you tell your kids today, it saves them a lot of work later).

Whose pain is it, actually?

Feelings of not being seen, not being heard, are universal. Each of us sees others from their own upbringing, patterns and shortcomings. How you were raised becomes your second nature. It helps to ask yourself: do you react the way you do because you want to help your child, or because it touches something old in you? It all starts with acknowledging, enduring and regulating your own emotions. If you can welcome them, it can be healing. Not just for you, but also for your children.

The key to mindful parenting according to founding father Jon Kabat-Zinn:

1 Sovereignty – can you see the child the way they are, without wanting to change them from self-interest? Respect their autonomy; that’s how you allow them to show their true self and find their own way. Everyone wants to be who they really are, become who they can be.

2 Empathy – kids always know when we’re not connected to them. Be aware, not just physically, but with your mind and your heart. That’s how children feel the confidence they need to tell you about their struggles.

3 Acceptance – you don’t have to solve the problems a child brings up immediately, as long as you let them know you are there and listen to what’s going on, even if you can’t imagine precisely. Just by allowing it to be, you make confusion or insecurity bearable.

From: Everyday Blessings, the inner work of mindful parenting.

How to get through the week mindfully:

·      In situations that involve intense emotions, try to find out whether these are your emotions or your child’s. Do you feel sorry for them for being bullied, or are you thinking of your own youth?

·      Having an argument at home? Try to see a dispute with your child as a meditation. Breathe in, breathe out. They behave in a certain way, he aren’t their behavior. Can you see hem for who they really are?

·      Try a walking meditation. You can easily do it on the way to the coffee machine, to the supermarket or walking the dog. That’s how you learn to look at the world around you differently and everything feels refreshingly new.

Text: Nicole van Borkulo - Photo: Carolina Sanchez B