Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What Is The Golden Rule In Parenting?

Reframing The Golden Rule in Parenthood: Treat your children as if they are *you* at the same age. 
By parenting them as you wish to have been parented yourself, you are healing your own 
(still wounded) inner child while preserving the authenticity of the little one right in front of you. Win-win. 
~ Lu Hanessian 

That's me, just around age 3
The Golden Rule. I remember exactly where I was when my father first told me "do unto others as you would have done unto you". I remember learning later in life that I should remember to treat my children as I would treat a friend - you would never yell at a friend that they should "sit down now!", would you? In therapy we are often told that triggers stem from unresolved issues we had as children. 

When triggered, our brain looks for a "match" for how we are feeling in the moment and we are instantly transported back to feeling like our 4-year old self. A couple of days ago, Katie from Practical Parenting left a comment on my blog and said that when she has a tough time dealing with her children's behavior she steps away, takes 5 deep breaths and puts a positive image of her child in her mind. Something started clicking for me. Yesterday I read the above quote by Lu Hanessian on Parent2ParentU's Facebook page and it all came together.

Our daughter, a few months before turning 4.
We look a bit alike, no?
I've written before about our daughter, so like me in so many ways, who triggers my anger so often. But why? I love her so deeply, I am constantly impressed by the complex things she already understands, She's incredibly creative, wonderfully generous and kind, she's confident and holds firm in her opinions which I tell myself will serve her well later in life and yet, she makes me completely batty sometimes. 

Last night she lost it at the dinner table and kept playing with her food and taunting her brother and not listening, not listening, not listening. I kept calm for what felt like ages and suddenly I couldn't hold it together anymore. In that moment I forgot that she is only 4, I forgot that she was over tired, I forgot that she may have had a day where she was told what to do all day long...more importantly, I seemed to be forgetting the person behind the behavior. 

I got past my own tantrum after a minute or two, apologized, explained, helped her calm down. She forgave me as her wise, little self always does. But later I was still thinking about it. I mulled over Lu's powerful words - if she were me, was that how I would want to be treated? This morning I read in Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn's book Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting the following paragraph:
"In some sense our children have to feel us holding on to them, no matter what repugnant (to our mind) spells come over them no matter what dark disguises they try on. This mindful holding on comes not out of a desire to control them, or to hold them back, or to cling to them out of our own neediness, but out of a commitment to be appropriately present for them no matter what, to let them know that they are not alone, that we have not lost sight of who they are or what they mean to us." 
One of my favorites and helpful
every time I pick it up.
These times when I get so frustrated and feel actual anger toward my children are moments when clearly I am not mindful. These are moments when I lose sight of the golden rule, I lose sight of who I am talking to and what they mean to me. I know this because as soon as I "snap out of it" and come to my senses I feel so horrible and so remorseful. Even now, as I think about last night I wonder how I can get so angry. 

I am still searching for the answer to this. It's like a switch that flips. I am able to stay calm, present and understanding for a certain amount of time and then I lose it and I become like a furious five-year old. I know that a strong reaction to behavior in others is often really just a rejection of that same behavior in yourself. Is it possible that my little girl, feisty and strong-willed, has behaviors that I am not comfortable with in myself? Is it possible that when she exhibits her moodiness I shut down because I see that as unloveable in myself? That feels real to me. And that feels so terribly sad.
"And isn't it true for all of us that when we are feeling lost, sad, and often quite toadlike, it helps enormously to feel that the people closest to us are still our allies, are still able to see and love our essential self?" ~ Everyday Blessings
To not accept this part of my daughter, to not accept it in myself, is to say that it is not OK to be moody, temperamental or crabby. To not be allowed the full range of one's emotions feels like dying a little inside. And so I continue to work on my practice of remaining mindful, forgiving myself just as I forgive my children. Do unto others as I would have them do unto me.

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach 

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14 Great Comments Made By Clicking Here!:

Edi Cooke said...

Along these lines I highly recommend "I'll Never Do To My Kids What My Parents Did To Me" by Thomas and Elaine Paris. A short, but very helpful and insightful book.

Thanks so much for blogging Gina. Each post I receive in my inbox is a gift for the day!

The Twin Coach said...

Edi, you just made my day. What a lovely thing to say. Thank you. :) And thank you for the book recommendation! The title sound intriguing.
- Gina

Christina Simon said...

I think the phases or stages can be the most frustrating. Right now my daughter is in a "negative" stage where nothing is good enough, nothing is right, especially nothing I do. I try hard not to personalize it, but it's difficult to hear the complaints when she doesn't realize how lucky she is in a lot of ways. Great piece!

heidi @ wonder woman wannabe said...

So glad i blog hopped my way here today.

(came by way of the Positive Parenting FB pg)

i've mused on 'golden rule' style parenting on my own blog as well - though not exactly from the same viewpoint you suggested. i was both encouraged and challenged by your post and look forward to looking into the title you highlighted as well!


The Levy 6 said...

You are spot-on, and I often wonder for myself, why does the switch get flipped? Often, for me, it's the end of a day - perhaps even a great parenting day (one filled with struggles & successes but one during which I rode the waves calmly & w/ confidence.) But by supper, or teeth brushing, or bedtime...sometimes I'm just 'seasick' by riding on these waves of emotion (I have four children between the ages of 6 & 2...) and I want to just puke. And so, I do...I lash out. The pressure cooker starts to whistle and I lose control of myself, and spew.

But I LOVE (!) the thought of treating them as younger versions of ourselves, or a friend. I often give this advice TO my friends. Example -- when your child is crying and for reasons not fitting (in your mind), treat them as you would a crying friend. I would NEVER say to a friend, 'what are you crying about - if you keep this up I'll give you something to cry about...' Nope. I would sit quietly with them. Hold them. Wait for them. Our children deserve the same.

This said, as parents and humans...better yet, just grown kids...we need to recognize and support ourselves in these moments. Speak our truths. 'I'm tired. It's difficult managing all the needs of four children. I'm sorry. I love you.'

We so desperately need to re-establish EMPATHY in our society. The first step is to learn it for ourselves...and spiral out.

The Twin Coach said...

Christina, I know what you mean. I often take it so personally when my kids complain & can feel as though they are so ungrateful. But then I also remember how many years it took for me to realize how lucky I was to have what I had! :)

Heidi, thank you so much for "hopping" over! And so great to connect on Twitter, too. I'm off to check out your blog next!

The Levy 6, I'm so glad the post resonated for you & that you found something to take away. I love your thoughts about how to comfort a friend who was crying. And I absolutely agree with your thoughts on empathy for ourselves first and, ultimately, for society as a whole. Many thanks for the note!


anonymous said...

The similarities between you and your daughter are uncanny! I have similar triggers, the end of the day when I'm pooped, and when my son doesn't listen. It really irks me when he looks straight at me and doesn't hear what I'm saying, or worse, hears what I'm saying and goes and does --- anyway! But as you pointed out, it's often what you dislike most about yourself and I have a terrible habit of getting over-enthusiastic about something and talking too much or interrupting and not listening. I'm working on being quieter and on being a better listener but I need to be more tolerant of it in my son too!

Ava said...

Gina ,This is my third try not sure if it posted.
SO I love your writing ,the storytelling aspect,honesty and always the psychological frame work the learning & growing...
I would love to do collaborative post if you are interested on what the not listening, not listening, not listening means psychologically for kids. It can give parents a different perspective on things . Ava @listentomepleas twitter

The Twin Coach said...

Anonymous, thank you so much for your note. It sounds like you really resonated with what I wrote about. That makes me so glad. :) I do think that the process of understanding myself better has really helped me understand and accept my children more. Good luck with the process yourself! :)

Ava, sorry you had to post so many times! But I'm so glad you persevered. :) I will email you directly & we can talk more. I love the idea! :)
~ Gina

Aunt Annie said...

Gina, what a wonderfully frank and honest post- I will be sharing this one too. And I really understand what you're saying, because that's how I was as a mother too.

In myself, I recognised eventually that my brain snaps were a result of failing to create a boundary earlier because I was too tired. I'd spent all day being incredibly patient (with other people's children) and when my son started pushing the boundaries, probably just needing some of my head space, I would let it go... and let it go... and then he'd push a bit harder, and BAM.

Just mustering enough energy to deal with the problem behaviour calmly as soon as it starts is a skill that's taken me many years to learn.

Teacher Tom said...

This is an important post, Gina. I know so many moms (mostly) who are tied up in knots over their role as parents. They're usually the most intelligent women, ones who read a lot, and really want what's best for their kids. On the other hand, they're, you know, human beings . . .

Several years ago, one of our parent meetings was getting rather tense, with parents fretting aloud about their "failings" as parents. Our wise parent educator stopped the discussion, saying, "Listen, if you do everything the parenting experts say 35 percent of the time, you are the best parent in the world." I don't know where she got the stat, or if it's even true, but it sounds about right to me. I'll tell you, it sure let the tension out of the room. And I'll bet those parents went home and were better parents for it.

Anonymous said...

thank you for this post...just what i needed to read today:)

Gina Osher said...

@Aunt Annie, you are so right about failing to create boundaries. I do that so often. I sometimes feel I have so far to go in learning how to not have such a quick trigger. Thank you for your comment!

@Tom, I have heard that 35% rule before & it does bring comfort. I know I'm usually a great parent. I just wish I could let go of some of the bad habits I've learned. :) Thank you, as always, for your comment! are so welcome. I kind of needed it today, too. xo
- Gina (The Twin Coach)

Holly said...

Thank you for this article In the last few days I have been feeling do frustrated with my 2 year and losing it with her (verbally) and have been at a bit of a loss as to what to do. I hate feeling like this and it doesn't get us anywhere. Will try to approach her as another adult today and see how we go.

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