I asked my friend, who is a family therapist of 50 years, “What is the concern most often expressed by your clients?”
The answer was: “Why wasn’t my mother (or father) more authentic?” In other words, their parent, instead of presenting a model of someone true to themselves, was constantly articulating a rule or standard of behavior that should be followed. The child was not receiving a model from an authentic, real person, in touch with their true self. An authentic parent has:
• Looked at the parenting they received
• Examined it
• Discarded the messages that were found to be false or internalized from the conditioning that was placed upon them
A parent can also be inauthentic by digesting so many “how to’s” from books they read or from neighbors or relatives and then fail to consult their own inner knowledge. Things “everybody knows” like “parents have to agree” or “you’ll spoil him if you pick him up every time he cries,” become just as misleading as voices from the past.
My dear friend, Gail Nagasako, has written a book titled Real L.I.F.E. Parenting: The Antidote to Parenting Information Overload. The first section, “Real” covers ways a parent can learn to be more real and more present with their child in any given moment, rather than in the past or on the page of some book. This is critical to being authentic.
Activities are included to encourage this experiential learning and a simple formula is given to ask ourselves when we interact with our child. Is it Loving? Is it Intelligent? Is it Fair? And is it Empowering? Once a parent sees the value of these principles, the parent can judge for themselves what to do in any given situation. What is Loving, Intelligent, Fair and Empowering can vary depending on the situation and an action to be ideal should be all four. Numerous examples and exercises help the parent apply the principles. Using these simple guides, a parent is empowered to apply them without having to have a pat answer for every situation.
I truly believe we don’t need shelves of books or to surround ourselves with folks from whom we get advice. While perhaps of use and good sources of parenting tools, there is no substitute for our being our child’s parent in the moment and to parent from a place of authenticity.
Image Credit: Jessica Bowen