It is probably the most intense responsibility we will ever get: raising children. Taking care that these helpless, little babies grow up to become conscious, aware, responsible, smart, healthy adults. It can feel really scary. Without any preparation you suddenly are a ‘mother’ or a ‘father’. You can read all the books on parenting you can get hold on, watch documentaries and talk with experienced parents or with your own parents. But nothing will really prepare you for that feeling you will feel when you hold your firstborn for the very first time.
I have three daughters. Each time after giving birth there was that emotional moment where I felt overflowed with love. But not only love. I also felt afraid. What if I fail? What if I am not a great mother?
Over the years I have learned a couple of things that I love to share with you. I will also inform you about an online program that I like to recommend. Do you want to know my thoughts on ‘Parenting, The Lefkoe Way’ immediately? Skip through to the bottom.
These are some of the things that I have learned from parenting:
1. Accept being not perfect
You will never (I repeat -never-) be the perfect parent. So let go of that surreal expectation of yourself. Nobody is perfect simply because we are human beings experiencing growth processes. You are not born with all the answers to all challenges. And you know what? That is what makes life beautiful and interesting. You don’t need to be the perfect parent. The best you can do is be a parent willing to make faults and learn from them.
2. Take care of yourself before you do anything else
For some reason it seems to be a quality in our society to take care of others before we take care of ourselves. But giving more than we receive is not working. Imagine a store. People come in and buy stuff. When the shelves are not supplemented, they will be empty quickly.
As a parent there is a lot you will give. Attention, cuddles, words, food, band aids, wipes. It’s a never-ending flow. If we haven’t got a storage filled with energy and love, we will run empty very quickly. So make sure you fill your shelves. Take me-time and don’t feel guilty about it. The best parent is a happy parent.
3. Examples are the best teachers
Live the life you wish for your children. If you wish them to be independent, conscious souls, the best way to teach them to live like that is to live like that yourself. Feel good, dare to live the life of your dreams, and you will show your children that following your heart and bliss is an amazing way of living. By not hanging on to other people’s thoughts and opinions, you show them it is more important to live the life of your choosing, and not the life others think you should live.
4. Choose your battles
If you are going to think something of everything your kid does, you won’t have time or energy for anything else. Imagine having more than one kid. You will go crazy! With my first daughter, everything was new. I was a concerned mother, always very aware of all the dangers my daughter was getting herself into. She might get sand in her mouth. She might hurt herself with that toy. She might… I had a perfectly clear idea of what my children should behave like, and it took so much energy to teach them how to be like that.
Having two kids, I didn’t like going out. Especially visiting people with nicely decorated houses freaked me out. My kids just might make a mess. They might not behave like little grown-ups, sitting still on the couch without spilling their lemonade or crumbling their cookies. I might give others the idea I am the worst mother. Birthday visits were nerve breaking. Christmas was exhausting. I felt totally responsible for my kids’ every move. Each thing they did I had to comment on. Then there was this sudden moment where I was totally done with this approach. I decided all the actions and behaviors of my kids would fit into three categories:
3. I don’t care
Behavior from the first category is behavior I really like. My two-year old bringing my 5-year old her favorite teddy bear when she’s crying. This is behavior I mention and reward (“Oh honey, that’s so sweet of you!”).
I will also mention unacceptable behavior. Running into the streets without looking anywhere for example is strictly not tolerated. Also hitting, excluding sisters from play and cursing are unacceptable.
The third category is the category of behavior I don’t care much about. I don’t mind if my daughter wears a princess crown or pajama’s to school. I don’t mind if they drop their sandwich, pick it up and continue eating. Friends can always come and play unless it is logistically impossible. I don’t mind if they empty the whole stapler onto a piece of paper. I don’t even mind when they wear two different shoes or a summer dress in winter.
Choosing your battles means putting as much behavior as possible from the second category into the third category. This is the least energy-demanding category. We mistakenly think that all behavior that doesn’t suit our perfect image is unacceptable. But is that really so, or is that your own projection? Maybe this behavior isn’t bad at all. Maybe this behavior allows your child to discover something.
5. Think from your kids perspective
I can explain what a kid’s perspective is, but that would still be a grown-up reflection upon a child’s perspective. Here’s a really fun thing to do: give your kids a camera and let them take pictures without you saying anything about it. Let them make photos of you, their toys, inside, outside… and watch the photos later on. Which items are photographed very often? Those are important things. Look also at the angle of the photos. Things that are small for you might be gigantic for them.
You can also study their drawings. What are they drawing? What inspires them? What shapes and colors do they love?
Photos my daughter made some years ago. She had a fascination for feet, toys and me…
6. Dare to say sorry
We all get taken along by our emotions sometimes. We might scream to our kids because we feel annoyed because our friend said something that hurt us, or our boss was being bossy. That little thing your kid did made your patience snap like a twig. It happens to all of us. But you know what? Our kids are extremely forgiving. Dare to say sorry to your kid. Let off steam if you need to, but do it elsewhere. Go for a run. Hit a pillow. And when you feel calm again, go and give your child a hug. You can try to explain to them what bothered you. They will understand. They love you unconditionally. If you open up to them, they will open up to you. By showing them you love them and your emotional outburst had nothing to do with them, they won’t take the blame upon themselves (“Oh no, I made daddy angry…”). They will learn not to take everything personally, which is a tremendous gift.
7. Ask, share, scream
Being a parent is not easy. Being a parent is not an everlasting pink cloud. Those stories are nonsense. Being a parent can be extremely difficult. Sometimes I think I’m one big failure as a mum. I wonder what I have begun. It freaks the hell out of me that there is no way back. I love my kids more than I ever thought I could love someone, but sometimes I need to get away. I need time alone or to let of steam. I need to fill up my reservoirs. Sometimes it helps to ask for help and advice. Other times I just need to share my stories and breathe without sweet little voices interrupting.
8. Stop resisting
It is often resisting something that brings much more friction and emotions than the cause of it itself. Your child can be tired and weepy all day. You might feel the tension in your body build with every tear of your little one because you don’t want her to be sad. It’s a great thing to feel compassion for your child’s emotions, but by not wanting it to cry, you don’t accept the tears. You resist the emotions your child is feeling. You could even give her the idea that these emotions are not welcome. Try to just be there for your kid without wanting to change the situation. You will see that not only this approach is a lot less energy consuming for you, but your child will feel seen and accepted.
You can feel personally offended when your kids don’t clean up the room. You have told them to do so many times, but they didn’t listen. You feel anger building. Now breathe. Realize that your kids never want to personally attack you. They live in their Now. The Now is all that exists. Cleaning up in 5 minutes means cleaning up in something that is Not-Now. And Not-Now doesn’t exist. Even though they say yes to your request to clean up (they are well aware of the desired answer), they forget. It’s not their fault. They don’t understand ‘later’. You can resist that, but my experience is that resisting a child’s perspective on time is completely futile.
The more I accept my kids completely for who they are, including their emotions and behavior, the easier it gets to be a parent.
What limits us most in life are our negative beliefs about ourselves. We cannot prevent our children from creating any negative beliefs. But by becoming conscious parents, we can prevent major negative beliefs from developing. We can create understanding within our children of how the human psyche works.
My own major negative belief has always been ‘I’m not good enough’. This belief is easily created. Take the example of where you ask your child to clean the room. It does its best but leaves some things scattering around. It can be very tempting to say: “Hey, you forgot to put away your teddy bear and those books.” Children take many things personally and they can start to believe they failed cleaning the room, especially when this type of reaction is more common as a mere “Well done!”
Another version of the same ‘not good enough’ is when a parent is angry and doesn’t explain the reason for this emotion to the child, but reacting annoyed to a question. “Can I watch television please?” “No, and now please stop bothering me.” The child most probably thinks that it’s his fault daddy is grumpy.
Parenting the Lefkoe Way
The Lefkoe Way is a method I have used myself to work on the elimination of my own negative beliefs. The Lefkoe Method unlearns you limiting beliefs and emotional conditioning that keep you stuck today. You can try this method here and eliminate a belief for free. By realizing which beliefs I have and what created them in the past, I can begin to understand the beliefs are nothing but my own creation, and they are not true. Something that you know is untrue is quite easy to let go of.
Shelly Lefkoe developed an online program called ‘Parenting, The Lefkoe Way’ that promises “A better relationship with your child, parenting that is easier and more fun and children who grow up with high levels self-esteem and happy and successful lives. Parenting The Lefkoe Way is about permanent, long-term results. It’s about going beyond instant gratification and enriching every aspect of your life and your relationship with your children.”
That all sounds amazing of course. But does it work? I have done this course myself and I can say: yes, it works. Shelly guides you through the audio sessions. The printable workbook and video files make it easy to do the exercises and really grasp the material. There is a warning I’d like to give you: this material is direct. It is uncompromising and confronting. By times you may think you do it all wrong, but at the same time Shelly makes you aware that it is NOT your fault. You just didn’t have better tools than dealing with your children as you always did. Which probably also was the way your parents treated you. The wonderful thing about a program like this is that it gives you the tools to change. On the go you get to deal with your own negative beliefs and eliminate them while you’re at it.
You get to understand what your child hears from their perspective. This can be totally different from what you meant. Kids want attention, affection and acknowledgement. If they don’t get this, they will form beliefs of WHY they didn’t get this from you. Since kids assume we have all the knowledge in the world, we must be always right and they must have been wrong.
Shelly gives us many easy imaginable examples of situations where you have the key to either strengthen the self-esteem of your child or to make it likely they create a negative belief. She teaches you to always ask yourself in any situation: ‘How does my child feel?’ Does it feel stronger or weaker than before the situation? And: ‘Was it worth it?’ Maybe you got your way, but was it really worth it?
I can really recommend ‘Parenting, The Lefkoe Way’ to all parents. This course will make you an even more conscious parent. Shelly is your personal mentor on this journey towards easier parenting, creating happy, conscious and self-aware children.