In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown talks about the Rage to Blame cycle parents often find themselves in when dealing with their children. Our children do something, we become angry, we blame them for our anger and discomfort, we impose consequences. Here, though, is the part that really connected for me. We find ourselves too tired and busy to follow through on the consequences we've imposed. That certainly was familiar!
How often do we, as parents, find ourselves in this place? Brown points out that shaming and blaming without accountability is toxic to parents and to our children. The stress associated with shaming and blaming is toxic to our bodies and minds. The deterioration of trust and respect is toxic to our relationships. She concludes by encouraging parents to be compassionate and accepting while holding our children accountable for their behaviors.
In the conscious parenting paradigm, this struggle brings to mind my work in forgiveness and parenting. Here's the twist. Forgiveness, in this case, means we forgive ourselves. We bring compassion and acceptance to ourselves when we're raging and blaming, and it will naturally flow down to our relationship with our children. By forgiving ourselves, we take control of the situation. We are no longer the victim of our child's behavior. We can integrate the energy of empathy in to the interaction.
There are three qualities we must embrace to integrate this particular approach to forgiveness in to our parenting.
- Self-Awareness – What am I feeling in this moment and what do I need to feel better?
- Awareness of the Underlying Pattern at Play – Why am I so emotional about this topic/behavior? Is there a recognizable pattern?
- Authenticity – Am I willing to share with my child what is going on for me in this moment and work to come to a sustainable solution to meet both our needs?
When my children were in high school, they liked to take naps in the afternoon and then stay up very late doing their homework. This turned in to a recurring power struggle. I'd bargain with the tired child about the duration of the nap and set an alarm to wake up at the agreed upon time. The child would agree and then sleep through the alarm. I would rage about broken commitments, laziness, and the potential impact on their grades of the late-night studying. I would threaten if they didn't get up, then (fill in with your favorite consequence). They would say "ok" and then go right back to sleep when I left the room. I would return later to find them still asleep, give up, and not follow through on the consequence. The resentment that built around this subject became a pretty heavy burden for me to carry.
It helped me to work through the forgiveness paradigm:
- Self-Awareness - I was feeling fear that my children wouldn't be able to function without me looking over their shoulder and guilt for allowing them to reach high school before doing something about it. I was also feeling frustrated that they weren't obeying me. I needed reassurance that they could handle things independently.
- Recognizing the Pattern - I was emotional about this because I wanted my children to be successful and I believed I knew the best path to success. I wanted them to listen to me and follow my instruction. I also felt judged by other parents whom I assumed were more "in control" of their teenagers. The pattern was my fear driving a need for control. My children responded to those attempts at control by pushing back, which was developmentally exactly what they should have been doing.
- Authenticity - I did share with my kids where I was coming from. I also recognized that what worked for me 50 years ago might not be the best and only path to success. My children and I agreed that, as long as their grades and school attendance didn't suffer, they could schedule their study time/naps in the way they liked.
By digging deep to identify the emotions and needs driving my interactions with my children, I was able to work through them in a positive way. I was able to let go of the guilt and my fear that I had failed them somehow.
If you'd like to learn more, please reach out to me for a free discovery session. I'd love to talk to you!