When my daughter was little, I parented her from a place of fear.
Anxiety, to be exact. Like most new moms, I was scared of messing things up. Having been through a psychology class or two, I wanted my daughter to have a secure attachment. I wanted her to have the right clothes, stroller and diapers. She should have the best classes, etc.
Sound familiar? It happens to most of us.
As she grew, I continued to be scared of messing up. Her acting out felt unacceptable. I didn't want her to be rude or spoiled.
In my anxiety, I was always trying to shape her into something. I wanted to control her because I wanted to "get it right." My fear and my love were all mixed up, in fact.
I didn't accept her for who she was, and she could feel it. I didn't trust who she was. It set us up as adversaries.
I was parenting out of fear, not out love and trust. And boy, was it getting us into difficulty.
Things only began to change as I started to see my insecurity. I saw that my parenting reflected my own fear and lack of trust. I thought that I was parenting from love. But in reality, my behavior stemmed from anxiety.
This is why are children are like little Zen teachers showing us what we need to work on (bowing to you, my challenging daughter).
Shift starts with awareness. Like the Dan Siegal quote that starts off every episode of the podcast, Zen Parenting Radio, says, "The best predictor of a child's well-being is a parent's self-understanding." When I finally started to carry my own baggage, I could take it off my daughter. Once I understood myself through mindfulness practices, I could come more from love.
Are you parenting from love or from fear?
Parenting from fear feels worried and anxious frequently. Parenting from love trusts that your children are good and want to do and feel good.
Parenting from fear never lets your children solve their own problems or fail. Parenting from love understands that children need to work things out themselves and that failure is an important part of learning.
Parenting from fear insists on perfect grades, looks, performance in mostly everything. Parenting from love accepts children where they are and helps them when children need and want help.
Parenting from fear orders around your children. Parenting from love talks to children with the same care and respect you would use in talking to a friend.
Parenting from fear can't handle your children's difficult emotions. They aren't acceptable. Parenting from love understands that as humans, we feel everything on the spectrum of human emotion and doesn't take it so personally.
Parenting from fear forces.
Parenting from love accepts.
This fundamental shift requires that we wake up to what we do. That we wake up and understand the roots of our behavior.
How do we do that? Reading articles like this one. Making space and time in our lives so that we can nurture understanding. Surrounding ourselves with media that support us, like the Zen Parenting Radio podcast.
For me, the biggest shift came with regular mindfulness practice. Want support in making your own mindfulness practice? You can join my 14-day virtual retreat here. It's free!
What do you think?
Looking deeply, can you see if you are parenting more from fear or love? Start the conversation in the comments below!
Self-understanding is the key that opens up the doors to living and parenting from love.
Thank you so much for reading and I'm looking forward to seeing you on the other side.