Finding a better way to get positive behaviors by acknowledging the real reasons for them. "It Was Never Your Fault"These are some of the most powerful words I use in coaching parents. "It was never your fault," carries a healing message to children that releases them from undeserved guilt. When children are free of guilt, they're learning, listening, and functioning well.
When parents are also freed from guilt, they, too, learn, listen and function well. That's my aim, to help you, as a parent release guilt that you never deserved.
"How does that work?" you might wonder. I offer parents forgiveness because I truly believe you/they have always been doing what you knew how to do. When my kids were young, I made a lot of mistakes. If I'd had a parent coach back then, I would have loved guidance and forgiveness from a trusted professional. I think it would have made all the difference. Now that that ship has sailed, I feel privileged to be able to lead parents through Present Moment Parenting in a way I never was. I feel honored to say, "You did your best. It was never your fault when things didn't go well."
And for kids, it's the same. There's not a child in the world who doesn't want to be in close connection with their parents. After all, parents are their survival, so it makes sense that they would strive to maintain the bond. But their emotional state, undeveloped as it is, prevents them from making the bond stronger. They falter, they have meltdowns, they make their parents feel frustrated and angry.
As the adults, it's our job to realize they never intended this disruption in the closeness with us. They just lacked the brain development to control their outbursts, their refusals, and their nasty words. Once we realize that undeveloped brains is the issue, and not bratty, controlling, impossible kid, we're miles ahead of the game of healing the break between ourselves and our children.
So, what's the first step? Changing our automatic reaction to defiance from one of upset and consequences to one of understanding, calm, and listening to the underlying emotion. When we can do that, our kids feel seen, heard, felt, safe. And from there, we can gain their cooperation.
Recently I heard a quote from a parent that went: "Once I dropped the parent role and focused on strengthening our relationship, everything got better." That to me, is gold.
What do kids need? A loving, accepting, guiding presence. This enables them to learn, follow, and emulate their parents' behavior, especially forgiveness.
If you'd like more information on how parent coaching works, click here. I'd love to help you form that strong, healing bond with your children that reduces defiance, strengthens your relationship, and brings peace to your home.
To read or listen to my book, click here: Present Moment Parenting; The Guide to a Peaceful Life with Your Intense Child.
Forgiving Ourselves as Parents Using the Present Moment
Posted: February 7, 2019
Parent coach trainee Shannon Snyder recently wrote about her experience as a mom of three young kids:
“I feel like I could gush about the present moment approach to parenting and how much that speaks to me in asking me to forgive myself for all the bad days I’ve had as a parent, and let go of all the worry of what those bad days might do to my children’s future self-esteem.”
I know this strikes a chord with many parents who carry not only the frustration of dealing with negative child behavior, but also the guilt about past interactions with their children. “Have I ruined my child?” is a frequently-asked question.
As Eckhart Tolle reminds us: Nothing has ever happened in the past. And nothing will ever happen in the future. Everything happens in the present moment. But after a lifetime of being conditioned to spend every moment concerned with the future (will she be healthy, will she behave at home and in public, will she have friends, will she get good grades, will she make good choices, will she have a good adult relationship, will she reflect well on me as a parent, will she be successful as a parent herself?) how do we suddenly just stop all that concern and pay attention in the present moment with our kids?
And even more daunting, how to we let go of the guilt we feel for all of our past mistakes?
The answer is so simple, it seems impossible, but here it is. We just decide to.
We use the present moment as our tool, rather than a stranger who just walked in the door and asked us to let go of what we thought made us and our kids safe: vigilant fear of the future. We decide to try it by merely letting go of the future for this present moment, and then, floaty as it feels, we actually let go. We greet the child in front of us, no matter what the mood or state of mind, and join him or her in the present moment. If it’s a happy time, we simply be in it with love. If it’s not happy, we simply be in it with love. We don’t try to fix it, change it, adjust it, or explain it. We just sink into it.
So you might be asking, what does that look like, exactly? Let’s say you have a child who just came in the door and screamed, “Where’s my homework folder? You never help me find things! I need it right now!” You have two choices here: you can either let the fire dissipate by keeping the air around it very still, or you can fan the flames. I recommend using this present moment to simply be with your child in her distress and say, “You are really upset about your homework folder and you want my help finding it.” A hand on the shoulder might work, too, if she’s not too sensitive to touch at the moment. “Yes, I am really mad and I want you to help me find it! You never help me!” comes the reply. Rather than push for the “truth” that you help her all the time, go for the feeling, which helps her feel seen. “You feel like you never get help around here.” “Yes, I feel like you always ignore me when I need help!” “You feel ignored way too much.” “Yes!” As you do this, the child can start to calm down, noticing that she is in fact being seen and heard right now. You are actually causing a physiological change in her body when you do this. The stress hormones are decreasing, which leaves room for the rational brain to take hold.
So how does this relate to self-forgiveness? As Maya Angelou said, “When we know better, we do better.” When in the past, you simply didn’t know better than to fan the flames of negativity with a big response to bad behavior, so how could you do better? Where would you have gotten the idea to do better if you didn’t even know there was such a thing as being in the present moment with your child? We can’t change the past, so we need tap the incredible power of letting it go, which is what self-forgiveness really is. Letting go means just that: giving your mind one tiny opportunity to remember what you did wrong, and then stop letting it occupy your mind space. Over time, it will become automatic to quickly register your mistake, let guilt go because you know it will only erode the moment, and join your child in the present. It really is a matter of just deciding and doing it.
As you get better at this with yourself, you’ll start to realize more about dealing with others’ behavior: giving no energy to negativity and giving lots of energy to positivity does cause a huge shift, not only yourself, but in everyone around you. You’ll feel it inside.
If you would like help with learning self-forgiveness as a powerful parenting tool, call Parent Coach Tina Feigal at 651-453-0123 or write email@example.com. Learn more about parent coaching here.
I See You Letter
“I See You” Letter
Another tool for helping a child with a traumatized brain, or any child who is asking for attention by showing unwanted behavior, is an “I see you” letter. When something is put into writing, it weighs more. The child can read the message without having to hear the adult’s voice, which is more effective because adult voices have sometimes not proven trustworthy in the past. I encourage caregivers to write the letter in a notebook, so the child can write back, if she so chooses, and review the letter at any time. The re-reading can be very healing. When I’ve encouraged other adults to write this type of letter, they’ve told me that they’ve found it later, stashed in a drawer or other safe spot, but never thrown away, which speaks to its significance to the child.
You can write a letter to a child of any age. If she is old enough to read, just leave it on her pillow. If not, write it out and read it slowly, then hand it to her.
If the child is so hurt that listening to you read a letter is too much, try posting notes that say what you see in her all over her room. Use the components below to craft your letter or your notes.
The components of the “I See You Letter” are:
- I see what you've been through (in details that are significant to her, maybe just the things you know she remembers). You may want to add, "And other things, too, that we haven't talked about." This could spark a response where she shares more.
- In light of your experiences, I realize that none of your recent behavior is your fault. You were just trying to express your pain.
- I'm sorry I blamed you when I just didn't realize that your behavior was your pain being expressed.
- Together we'll work on making it better, and here's how: ______
I just wanted to tell you what I see when I look at you. I see a kid who has had some very rough experiences. When you were younger, your adults did not do what they needed to do to keep you safe. No child should have this happen, as every child deserves and needs to be kept safe. Your mom left you with people who hurt you, and your dad left without saying why. That must hurt so much. I want you to know that this was never, ever your fault. You were an innocent child.
I see a kid who is sensitive and smart. I see a kid who is amazing at figuring out other people. I so appreciate hearing you express what you know long before others your age can do that. I see a kid with artistic ability, and one who cares deeply for our pets. When I watch you with younger children, I am so impressed with how tender you are.
I realize I have gotten angry with you and yelled when you were upset with me. I now get that you just felt threatened, and you did not mean to hurt my feelings or disrespect me. I’m sorry and I will try very hard not to yell in the future. If I make a mistake and yell (because we all make mistakes), I will apologize and have a do-over, because no one deserves to be yelled at.
If you feel like writing back to me in this notebook, that’s great. Feel very free to do so. If not, I’m fine with that, too. I’m just happy to be able to use this notebook to say what I want to tell you in writing.
I am so happy you are in my life. Thank you for all the gifts you give me, especially your smile.
I encourage adults not to ever mention the letter, nor to expect him to say he read it and liked it. For a traumatized child, this may be too much vulnerability. But what often happens is that adults notice a softening in their child, a better attitude, more affection, more focus, and more cooperation. That’s the goal of writing: to see the child clearly, communicate it, allow the amygdala to register that the child is seen and therefore will survive, watch the result in a much more relaxed and relieved child and in an improved relationship. I often describe this process as being “like physics,” as predictable as proven science. It’s truly remarkable how dramatic the results are! And when you think about it, the seeing is the tool for calming the threat alarm. No wonder the child can now function so much more rationally. The more rational front brain is able to work!