The Hero’s Journey of Parenting Hard to Handle Kids
Guest Post by: Stephanie Renaud B.A.Psych., B.Ed. Energy Coach for Parents
So your kid is a screamer. When he loses his cool, he loses control. He’s defiant, angry, maybe even aggressive. You’ve gotten calls from the school, maybe weekly, reporting that your child has gotten physical (again) with another student. Maybe she has been disciplined, removed from the classroom or even suspended.
Mama, have I ever BEEN THERE.
I remember early on when this started happening, my instinctual response was to blame myself. I mean seriously, where did I go wrong?! The feelings that accompanied this of guilt, shame, fear, and inadequacy were overwhelming. They felt so TRUE. It must be my fault, I feel it so strongly, and so it must be the truth. That’s how it felt.
I am here to tell you that IT”S NOT YOUR FAULT.
It IS your responsibility.
You see, our kids come into this world as their own people. They are their own beings with their own paths. Who they are and what they choose to do has nothing to do with you. As their parent, however, the response to their choices falls to you.
How will you respond?
With anger? Rage? Shame? Punishment? Endless lectures?
These are not responses. They are reactions. A reaction is never considered and carefully chosen, it is ACTED, often in motion before we even realize what’s happening. Ever had that experience of being in the middle of freaking out on your child and feel almost as though you are watching yourself from a distance? A reaction was in motion and your conscious mind was not in control.
A response is a different things altogether. It’s considered, chosen, and never comes from the heat of the moment. It is never rooted in strong emotion and certainly never yelled at the top of your lungs. It comes from a place of wisdom and love, never from a place of anger and shame. When I say it is your responsibility, what I mean is that it is your duty to respond.
This is the ground where you can begin to understand your child. Why does she lose control? Why does he yell and scream and lose his mind? Because he hasn’t learned how to tolerate strong emotions and maintain his self control. Because she is acting from a place of anger, fear, guilt or shame and has no idea how to act otherwise.
And you know what that’s like because you have been there too. Parenthood is handy like that because it brings out your deepest self. All those parts of you that need to grow, mature and evolve are brought to the surface when you become a parent. You will come face to face with your own shadow parent.
Because here’s the thing; you can’t teach what you don’t know.
If you have no idea how to choose a different path than blowing up when you are angry, your child has no one to teach them how to do that. If you are clueless as to how to handle your own blow ups with compassion and forgiveness, you will be completely unable to teach these skills to your kids.
Parenthood is equally about raising yourself as a parent as it is about raising your children.
Because when you freak out on your kids out of fear, or shame, and then beat yourself up for it, this will be mirrored in how to deal with your kids when they freak out.
So, what to do?
For starters, realize that parenthood is one of the worlds most difficult and challenging roles. There are so many expectations placed on parents by themselves, their friends, their parents and society as a whole. And at the same time it is one of the least understood roles. We all know what we are expected to do (everything right) and be (perfect). Do we really know who we are as parents? Or who we want to be? We can’t know how to get there until we are clear on those things. Like, crystal clear, with the most raw and authentic honesty available to us. From this place we can begin to shape ourselves as parents, as we see who we are, and know deeply who we wish to be, we are empowered to make choices about the direction we take in any given situation.
Like when that call comes from the school that your child has blown up, and you need to come in for a meeting. Again.
A parent who is in control, is in control of themselves. They feel and are aware of their instinctive reactions, but they are present enough and clear enough on their desired outcomes to not allow those things to drive their choice of response.
Mastery of this takes work. It requires doing the work to train yourself and your mind to be present during difficult moments so that you are able to exercise your power of conscious choice. Work like daily meditation. It requires recognizing and healing your emotional triggers as they come up. It also requires shameless and often uncomfortable emotional honesty about who you are as a person.
It’s truly a hero’s journey.
And it’s all possible.
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To find out more about meditation and beginning your own practice, join Waking Up Mama, a Facebook community of women doing the work of courageously and consciously raising themselves as parents.