Parenting: the most beautiful and frustrating thing in the entire world. Some days you feel like you are on top, and others, you want to crawl back into bed and hope no one finds you. Parenting from the inside out helps you develop a strong bond with your children while breaking free from unrealistic expectations. We live in a world filled with judgment and criticism. We are constantly judged as parents, our kids are constantly judged for not being perfect. It’s no wonder that parents struggle to find the balance between doing what they think is best for their children and doing what the world thinks is best for their children.
So, what can you do to overcome this? Most importantly, decide today that you will become the authentic parent that your children need and deserve.
Parenting from the inside out is about having an authentic, real relationship with your children
Most parents strive to have an authentic, real relationship with their children. They want to love and accept their children for who they are, and who they will become. Parents also want their children to love and accept as well. According to psychologist, Stephen Joseph, authenticity begins with realistic perceptions of reality, acceptance, thoughtfulness, appropriate humor, the ability to express emotions, the ability to learn from mistakes, and self-awareness. If we view this in the context of building strong relationships with our children what we get is this:
- Realistic perception of reality: Parents must be able to see a situation for what it is, not what they think it is. Easier said than done, right? Of course! If it were so easy to view a situation from a 306-degree approach there would be far fewer arguments and hurt at home.
- Acceptance: Acceptance moves beyond accepting your child to accepting yourself. We know the importance of acceptance and unconditional love of our children. What’s more difficult is unconditional love and acceptance of ourselves. You must embrace who you are as a person and a parent to build a real relationship with your child. When you accept yourself, you are able to really focus on areas of your life important to improve. You’ll also be able to break free from those judging our parenting choices. According to the website, The Power of Positivity, when you accept yourself you worry less about what others think of you.
- Thoughtfulness: Have you ever had one of those days where you just seem too tired to think? Or, maybe you were so stressed out that you said some things to your child that you instantly regretted? It happens, even to the best of them. Developing thoughtfulness is about being considerate of your children and their feelings. It’s so easy to forget that kids are real people with real feelings that they haven’t learned how to regulate yet. Even our teens have a difficult time regulating their feelings. If you really think about it, some adults haven’t mastered this skill yet. This means that they are yet skilled at expressing themselves and it’s important for you, as the parent, to understand and relate to them, even when they seem most unrelatable.
- Appropriate Humor: What may seem like an innocent joke could be detrimental to your relationship with your child. When possible, err on the side of caution. Your child should never be the center of your joke. It’s important that your tone and behavior remain positive and encouraging.
- The ability to express emotions: This can be very difficult for many people. Especially fathers or those that weren’t taught how to constructively express themselves. It can also be very difficult for you to be vulnerable in front of your child. Some people fear that expressing emotion is being weak. Remember, it takes strength to express emotion in a constructive way. Your child will feel more connected to you if they know you are human.
- The ability to learn from mistakes: Have you ever had to tell your child the same thing over and over again? Have you ever had the same argument with them over and over? It might seem like they’ll never get it or improve. Ask yourself, what mistakes are you making during these interactions? What can you do to improve your role in the situation?
- Self-awareness: Self-awareness is the ability to understand your motives, desires, and feelings. Being self-aware is such an important part of parenting from the inside out. You have to know why you react the way you do to certain situations. You have to understand why you get worked up, or why you don’t take action. Understanding the reasoning behind your behavior will help you objectively parent your child. Here’s a great read about developing self-awareness through journaling.
Have heartfelt interactions with your children that come from a place of love, understanding, and acceptance.
Creating strong and lasting connections with your children is one of the best gifts you can give them. Every one craves to feel loved and accepted, even if they act like they don’t. Heartfelt interactions can be as simple as giving them a long hug, or a loving smile. It could be telling them that you are sorry and not placing any conditions on the apology. Parenting from the inside out equals humble parenting. (I’m sorry I did the, but… is not heartfelt).
Think of how good it feels when one of your friends or partner “just gets you”. You don’t feel like you have to act a certain way or hide who you truly are to feel loved. Your children deserve this same feeling. They deserve to feel safe enough to be themselves around you without fear of judgment or punishment. That’s not to say that you should correct undesirable behavior. It means that they don’t have to hide their anger or sadness. They can freely express themselves and know that you’ll be there to guide and support them, not punish and suppress them.
Overcome the temptation to act without understanding why you want to act
This is along the same lines as speaking without thinking. Sometimes we say or do things before we truly understand why we are saying or doing it. Overcome the temptation to act on non-life-threatening situations before you know “the why” behind the action. What are the motives behind your behavior? Was your child a little sassy and you want to ground them for a week because people disrespected you at work today? Does the punishment fit the crime?
The law of natural consequences is a great way to encourage good behavior from your child.
Natural consequences are a great way to teach responsibility and discipline. Did your child break your favorite lamp after you repeatedly told them not to play ball in the house? A natural consequence would be that they need to replace the lamp for you. Dr. Jane Nelson has a great article about the importance of using natural consequences to parent your child positively.
Parent without fear of judgment
It’s tough to be a parent today. Every decision you make seems to be placed under a microscope by people that think they are qualified to parent your child. And, maybe they are qualified, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t. Understand no one is perfect. Those people offering unsolicited advice have no idea how they would truly behave if they were in your situation.
Trust that you are doing your best with the tools you have. Seek advice when needed, but seek advice from those that have strong and positive relationships with their children. It’s difficult to parent from the inside out if you continually worry about what others think of your parenting abilities. Usually, this fear of judgment spills over into other areas of your life outside of parenting. Parenting without fear of judgment begins by living without fear of judgment.
Aesop’s Fable perfectly describes what happens when you try to please every person judging you:
“THE MAN, THE BOY, AND THE DONKEY”
A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”
So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”
So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”
Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?”
The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.
“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them:
“Please all, and you will please none.”
Love and accept yourself so that you parent from a place of high self-esteem and worth
Loving and accepting yourself is about being happy with who you are. Think about it, you are parenting from the inside out, shouldn’t you love who you are on the inside? What kinds of thoughts go through your head on a regular basis? Are they positive, encouraging thoughts, or is it negative self-talk? The thoughts that regularly go through your head affect the way you parent your children. More importantly, it shapes the way they speak to themselves.
Think about these two scenarios:
Julie has a strong sense of self and engages in positive self-talk. She consistently reminds herself that she is a capable and loving parent. She no longer engages in blaming behavior. Instead, she focuses on acceptance and tolerance. When her daughter comes home from school angry she snaps at Julie. Julie is taken aback, but she takes a deep breath and empathizes with her daughter. She gives her daughter a big hug and says, “This isn’t usually how we start our after school conversations. What’s different today?” Julie and her daughter talk about how school was bad today. Her daughter and her besties got into a fight and she got a D- on her quiz. Julie acknowledges her daughter’s upset feelings and lets her vent. When her daughter is feeling better Julie says, “I’m glad you are feeling better now. It hurt me when you snapped at me earlier. I’d love it if we could talk about what’s bothering you in a more constructive way…”
Jenny has low self-esteem and believes that she is not a good person. She engages in negative self-talk the majority of the time and reminds herself that she’s not good enough. She blames stress, life, kids, and her husband for her negative outlook on life. Her daughter also comes home from school angry and snaps at her. Jenny says to herself, “Oh great! Here we go again. She’s not getting away with talking to me that way!” Jenny immediately snaps back at her daughter and says, “Listen here, little lady! You DO NOT talk to me that way. Do you understand me?”
Can you imagine which conversation turned out better?
Have confidence in your parenting skills so that you move from controlling your children’s behavior to empowering them to make morally sound decisions
When you control your child’s behavior it’s difficult for them to make sound decisions on their own. Having confidence in your ability to parent your child changes the types of conversations you have. Instead of telling them to do their homework each day after school, you build their sense of responsibility and they naturally do their homework after school.
So, how do you do that? Like everything, it takes practice. Changing conversations like this doesn’t happen overnight. It starts with building confidence in your ability to “lead” your child. Good leaders don’t make choices for their employees. They provide employees the tools and resources needed to make good decisions. They share company goals with the employees and constantly encourage progress towards those goals. They don’t simply force the employee to “follow a path”. They encourage creativity and good moral judgment while striving to achieve their goals.
Being a good parent is not much different than being a good leader. When you try and control your employees, morale drops and they might even quit. Your children might not be able to quit when you try and control them. But the dissatisfaction can come out in other ways such as rebellion.
Final thoughts about parenting from the inside out
Parenting from the inside out is about being true to yourself while encouraging your children to become the best they can be. These are parenting tips designed to help you develop effective parenting skills. It’s not easy, especially if you didn’t have the best role models growing up. Remember, be authentic, be self-aware, and confident in your abilities.
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