In the school of life, we learn the most important lessons from our children. Not only do they teach us wonderful things such as unconditional love, patience and tolerance, but if we are willing to pay attention, our kids can show us baggage from the past that still hurts and that we need to work on.
Every experience and interaction with our children is a new opportunity to learn about ourselves. The way we answer to their demands, tantrums and even their love can expose as much about us as about our kids. When these responses, usually automatic, are displayed in a frequent and repeated form they can bring to light red flags that need healing.
Every child awakens different emotions and reactions. Therefore, every child provides us countless opportunities to learn and work on unresolved patterns. When a child challenges us or presents a particular behavior, a series of uncontrollable reactions sparks in us. The child yells, the parent yells louder, punishments are given, threats are expressed and at the end of the day everyone ends up exhausted. With time, theses interactions become a pattern and the parent-child relationship wears away.
But how can we stop or change a pattern when the kids are out of control? What can I do to make my child change his behavior and meet my demands and life’s challenges the way I expect him to?
The answer is not in your child. The answer is not in looking to make changes in him. The answer is in us and in understanding our reactions.
Next time you find yourself having an automatic reaction to your child’s behavior, such as yelling or threatening, try taking a step back to breath and stop that reaction. Keep breathing until you are able to calm the urge of yelling and try to identify where that impulse is coming from. Turn the light inward and observe. Is it coming from a need for control? Is it a feeling of impotence? Is it emotional stress? Could it be coming from not feeling appreciated? Things completely unrelated to the kid and to the present moment and more connected to the past and learned expectations.
Setting boundaries and discipline is an important part of raising a child, but so is accepting our child and understanding that their behavior is a part of a dynamic that involves the whole family. It is not just about setting rules or teaching appropriate ways of expression but identifying what we are bringing into the relationship with our kids and what changes we can make in ourselves to bring about change in them.
Learning from our kids requires work and the willingness to accept our responsibility in our kid’s behaviors. It requires patience and being open to trying new ways of understanding and solving a problem.