Reflecting on Mother’s Day, I want to talk about mothering ourselves as a way to become a better parent. As mothers, we do our best to help our children grow through each developmental, social and emotional stage of their life. Sometime to our surprise, some of these stages can trigger emotional baggage left over from our own childhood and affect the way we parent. The result can harm our childrens’ self-confidence, self-worth and self-image which can carry on into adulthood and even shape the way they parent!
Possible Sources of Your Childhood Trauma: Parental Neglect, Parental Criticism, Physical, Sexual, Emotional or Verbal Abuse, Alcohol, Drugs or Mental Illness in the Family, Lack of Emotional Nurturing and Support By your Mother and/or Father.
One example of this came up the other day. My group of mom friends were talking about being critical with our children. One mom was wrestling with her guilt. She realized the criticism was a continuation of her parent’s critical tone, which still rattles around in her head.
She didn’t know how to stop this cycle and felt trapped by her upbringing with a critical mother. As conscious of a mother that she is, when push comes to shove, she defaults to being critical– Her kids push her buttons, she says things she regrets later, but doesn’t know how to stop.
I too, grew up with a critical parent and I had that continuous “negative speak” going on in my head as a child and it continued as an adult. I can thankfully say now that I rarely, find myself being critical of myself and as a result don’t find myself speaking critically to my children.
Here’s my method to stop the cycle of criticism or negative “inner-speak” caused from childhood trauma:
1. Notice what the reoccurring messages are.
2. Consciously come up with loving, nurturing, encouraging messages to replace the negative ones. (“Maybe I’m not perfect yet, but I am getting better each time.”)
3. Catch yourself mid-critical-thought & ask “how would I say this to a dear friend or my child to inspire and encourage her?”
4. Embrace your imperfections to let go of that critical voice or overcome that negative thought.
Part of me thought I needed that voice inside to “whip me into shape”, to “better myself”, to get rid of the undesirable parts of myself. I finally let that go when I stopped comparing myself to some standard that I had made up in my head, when I truly accepted the “good, bad and the ugly” as “imperfectly perfect”, when I realized that all that I am (childhood abuse and all) is exactly who I need to be to carryout my purpose in the world (that purpose does not have to be defined). I went from a belief of working hard, needing to be productive (to prove something to myself), to being kind, forgiving and gentle to myself – which proved to be a more productive way to live. Instead of beating myself up inside as a form of motivation, I now feel energized to continually challenge myself out of a sense of adventure.
Now I can explore beyond the limits of what I’ve known or what I’ve done without an internal struggle and without the negative emotion attached. If I find myself defaulting to a negative thought, I consciously reprogram my default mental place to be something where I feel a deep sense of love, joy, or gratitude.
This Mother’s Day give yourself and your children the gift of healing your inner child. Be that inspiring, nurturing, loving parent to yourself now. It is the greatest gift of a lifetime.
Image Credit: Infinity Photography Hawaii