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Positive Parenting: Self-Work in Practice

Do you ever feel unappreciated or disrespected around your children? How about furious and disconnected? Do you ever ask yourself, “What am I doing wrong?” even though you have tried numerous parenting strategies and exhausted all your efforts?

There is a pressure in our society to live up to being an ideal parent. Positive parenting advice encourages parents to show their love by being sensitive, patient, supportive, understanding and nurturing. Acknowledging children’s feelings, comforting kids during meltdowns, using a calm voice, avoiding violence and offering empathy and respect are just a few of the expectations out there for us to aspire to.

However, often parents express disappointment and shame in being frustrated and angry with their children. They complain of feeling like failures and wonder why their children remain ill-behaved, rude and ungrateful when all the parents do is give and try their hardest.

Children, though cute and sweet, are just as human as our adult family members and work colleagues. Don’t be surprised – they can be just as mean, especially since they don’t yet possess or use the skills necessary to express themselves appropriately. They are also quite capable of testing boundaries and projecting and releasing their frustrations onto anyone they trust and care to be a punching bag. Ouch!

Positive parenting permits children to express all of their emotions. However, the more challenging practice of positive parenting is modeling to our children appropriate examples of expression and behavior. Your child is continuously looking, listening and mimicking you. Yes, actions do speak louder than words. So what can you do to model self-care, self-love and self-respect?

Consider actions such as articulating and expressing your feelings truthfully and appropriately with your children. Do you catch yourself swallowing your pain and frustration or putting on a “happy” mask? Go ahead and flex those muscles in asserting your personal boundaries, space, expectations and needs with your child. Be bold. Face conflict with confidence instead of making excuses for your children’s behavior in order to be liked or to “keep the peace.”

Use your courage in accepting and getting in touch with you “ugly” emotions such as fear, anger, pride or jealousy. Be mindful of verbally blaming your kids or the outside world for your annoyance or anger. Finally, practice managing and expressing your uncomfortable feelings honestly and effectively around your kids. Too hard? Ha! Parenting is often compared to signing up for a Ph.D in life. Take back your voice and self-worth. Consider getting support, seek to model others you look up to and take baby steps.

Good or bad, we can use our kids’ behaviors as a guiding reference point. Like a mirror, our kids offer us a picture of how we are showing up and doing in our personal lives. When our children push our buttons they release personality traits that we may often want to deny. We may discover in ourselves a pushover, an “avoider”, a “pleaser” or a worry wart. Other times we may realize that we are simply unhappy, scared, unfulfilled, needy, mad or insecure about something else entirely.

Being aware of what you need to work on is a gift. The great news is that the image you see can be transformed through your everyday personal choices. In response to your efforts, you may soon take pleasure and fulfillment in what your children and the rest of the world reflect back to you.

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