Most of us who are respectfully parenting were not raised in the same way. All the unlearning and forming new habits can be SO hard. But you’re not alone.
Earlier on in my journey I felt like I had the awareness and understanding of what children deserve; yet I felt so lost in how to change and implement it! I felt almost like I was watching on and was hyper aware of every mistake I made without the power to be what I needed to be to transform into the parent I wanted.
I remember a key moment where I was overwhelmed and my kids were not listening to me and I was triggered back to feeling unheard. Instead of recognising that I yelled. I threatened them that we would go home if they couldn’t ‘just listen to me’.
Immediately, even as I was saying it I was yelling at myself internally “What are you doing?! Stop! This isn’t helping! You’re so rubbish at this! You are not a good mother.”
I struggle with depression (have for years if you’re new to the blog) and negative self talk. Saying these things to myself was not new to me. I had told myself these types of things over and over again and believed it.
But this time? In a powerful a-ha! moment, I realised I was shaming and blaming and belittling myself and treating myself the opposite to how I was aiming to treat my children. I was continuing the cycle on myself!
How could I meet my children with the empathy, respect, trust and love that they deserve when I wasn’t trying to treat myself with empathy, respect, trust and love? It was a really hard hitting realisation.
This in-between time was such an awful contrast. Especially when I felt stressed, I would get so down as I kept repeating patterns I did not want to! But beating myself up about it was adding to the problem.
It can be so hard to be something that we were never modelled. I honestly had moments I felt like I couldn’t fully be a respectful parent. But you can! I so promise you, you can.
Today I want to share with you what transformed my journey as a mama.
Everything changed once I saw the power in re-parenting yourself. The life-changing power in being who you needed when you were a child. We need to re-parent that inner child!
So how did I do this? How can we re-parent ourselves so we can be the best parent we can be for these amazing children we love?
Empathise with yourself
We all know the power of empathy for our children, but how well do we extend the same compassion to ourselves?
We need to at least try to be as kind to ourselves as we are to our children. For there is an inner child in us who needs it just as our own children do!
Empathising with children means validating their experience and emotions. Empathy can look like saying internally to yourself:
“I feel so frustrated! This doesn’t feel like it’s changing fast enough!”
“I feel triggered, I feel overwhelmed. I wish this didn’t feel so difficult.”
“I feel so tired. I don’t feel heard. This is intense.”
Empathising with ourselves doesn’t mean not holding ourselves to high standards and aiming for growth. The focus is still on improvement and what our children deserve! But it does mean recognising what we are doing is hard work and it matters!
Read that again, breaking the cycle of disrespectful parenting is important work and it really truly matters!
Validate your own emotions
I had created a habit where I belittled my own emotions and belittled the significance of the impact of authoritarian parenting. This isn’t healthy and it in a real twist it also really impacted my ability to parent how I wanted.
It’s so important to remind ourselves that it’s just as OK for us to feel and express the full spectrum of emotions as it is our children. Not just the emotions that we are comfortable with. It’s really common in our society to belittle children’s emotions or try to mute them.
Of course this doesn’t mean using those strong feelings against others, but feeling them is how we process them!
This is where you be gentle with yourself in your head and tell YOURSELF the things you should have heard as a child.
Validate your own emotions:
“It’s okay to find this hard.”
“You’re allowed to feel angry.”
“It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. This is a lot!”
“It’s okay to cry. It doesn’t make you weak or lesser. You’re allowed to feel hurt.”
It’s important to constantly remind yourself that you are doing well to unlearn the years of authoritarian parenting you were subjected to.
You’re powerful! You are parenting not from the ground up but from below ground up! You didn’t have the foundation you needed to build on. You’re building that yourself as well as for your children. This is so important.
Don’t punish yourself!
We parent without punishment and so too must we not punish ourselves!
Catch yourself if you’re shaming or guilting yourself for making mistakes.
I often say parenting isn’t about perfection, but intention. We as change makers strive for betterment and work daily to meet the needs of our children and parent them with respect and unconditional love.
It’s important not to punish yourself when you (inevitably!) don’t do this perfectly. It’s important for our kids too, to see us as humans, to hear us apologise, to witness us making mistakes and treating ourselves with kindness.
Care for yourself
Speaking of treating ourselves with kindness, self care is often spoken about in parenting but often I find in mainstream circles it’s used in ways that further disconnect. I may try to write about this at another time if people are interested.
However, my main points I hope to share is that self care should be as individual as we are. What we feel is helpful to us need not be shamed. For me sensory things really help as I’m someone who very much lives in my head and forgets about my physical form!
When we promote our own self care, it has the added benefit of modelling to our children how we should treat themselves. They too learn they are worth the time to care for themselves.
Importantly, self care doesn’t need to mean time away from your children. It can be as simple as removing guilt from activities you already do. It can also involve them! My kids enjoy doing natural face masks with me and watching fun stuff together on Youtube.
Surround yourself with support
Having other parents who are like-minded and supportive is SO important!
Surround yourself with people who understand and other parents who empower you in this process. Some may even be able to be that nurturing figure for us sometimes.
It’s important to not feel alone. It’s important to have people who value what you’re doing and value children as much as you do.
We aren’t meant to do this alone. Having a network that shares in how great this lifestyle is, is so powerful!
So from now on, let’s be on our own side! Let’s empathise with ourselves, let’s validate our own emotions and treat ourselves like we strive to treat our children. We too deserve the respect and love that we give our kids!
I so hope this is as helpful and transformative as it was for me!
Thank you for reading.
Thank you for this very beneficial article. Xo
This is wonderfully written and I needed to read it badly! Thank you!
Please write about self-care that doesn’t further disconnect! I’m an introvert, and every time I try to carve out a tiny bit of time it’s like the sky falls without me.
This is exactly how I feel pretty much every day. I feel so alone in this process as my fiance doesn’t understand where I’m coming from in trying to parent them differently and our parents don’t really support it either.
I realize that I definitely need to re-parent myself, but that seems almost impossible as well. I’m currently battling anxiety and depression and am frequently overwhelmed leading me down the road I know… yelling and punishing. This results in my negative self talk and breaking down regularly. This is a vicious cycle I’m in and I just don’t know how to get out of it.
I fear that I’m screwing up my kids the same way I was and that they will suffer like I do.
I’m trying though.
I feel like I could have written this myself. Virtual hugs.
I am interested in self care! I would read that article. Thank you for this. I can better identify my triggers now and it’s easier to step away knowing I am not a bad mother.
Nathan M McTague says
We are so on the same page with this, Rachel! Parenting can be so tricky, in part, because it comes fraught with all these invisible triggers that (most often) we don’t even know are there until they start getting set off by interactions with our kids. And it’s almost always old stuff from how we were parented (and our parents before us, and so on…) that comes up and takes over our conscious and conscientious attempts to parent according to our ideals. And because it’s *inside our own heads* it can be nearly impossible to track, or safeguard against, or see outside of in the moment.
My partner and I have been championing what we’ve called simply “self-empathy” for years. But recent neurological research has truly ratified the idea, showing how just saying the name of the feeling we’re having can change how the brain processes the emotion. In the moment, this can help us get a little distance from the visceral aspects of the feeling(s), and help us get back from our limbic (mid) brain to our executive (upper) brain, where among other capacities our abilities to calm down, be self-aware, control our impulses, and access empathy (for self and others) reside. Just reaching for the name of our emotion begins to return our access to those executive functions. Over time, doing this process again and again changes how our synapses function during emotion, granting us the power of “top-down” emotional processing which allows us to “stay in our right minds” versus “bottom-up” processing which has us go more primal when emotion shows up.
An important part of what you’re suggesting is that the *only* time we have access to do this level of reparenting ourselves and reprogramming our brains is when we’re parenting our own kids. It’s almost as if human development planned it that way! But, triggered moments with our children is, fortunately, not the only time we can work on it, once we’re aware of it. This is another reason why parenting support is so deeply, transformatively, and urgently important. That’s why I do the work I do — and I imagine you, too, Rachel! I neither want any parent to have to go through what I had to in order to reparent myself, nor do I want another child to have to endure the painful kind of upbringing that ensues when their parents wounds go unhealed.
My partner in life and business, Natalie, and I run the Center for Emotional Education to support parents and families with just this very thing. And I personally offer sessions designed to help parents not only reparent, but to heal their longstanding emotional wounds as well. If you happen to be interested in more information on that, I would humbly point you toward this: https://nathanmmctague.com/2017/11/17/working-with-our-wounds-integrating-ancestral-transgenerational-and-early-life-trauma/
Another stellar, and important post, Rachel. Definitely sharing! Thank you so much for the work you’re doing!!
What springs to memory for me is a therapy session with a therapist from years ago (2001-2002) over 3 years before my oldest was born. She wanted me to preform an exercise where I would speak to the child version of myself, expressing all the things that my child self needed to hear. I couldn’t do it! I was vested in therapy, had a great relationship with my therapist and felt as though I was making some headway but I just could not speak to my child self. I felt foolish, self conscious even a little light headed. and I wondered why I couldn’t preform this simple exercise.
Fast forward to 2004 when I found out I was carrying my first daughter. It became cathartic to give my child what I had always needed and had never really been able to verbalize. I instinctively answered her emotional needs as an infant and I treated her and responded to her in what felt whole and right to me. Although my triggers were many and often, parenting in a way that felt natural, nurturing, fair and respectful allowed me to parent my child self. I still always wish I could be better, more patient, less frazzled but it no longer feels like a failure. Once I learned to be kinder to myself the whole world looked like a better place. Breaking a cycle I didn’t even know existed has improved everything in my life and in large part, I have my children to thank for that. Thank you for great info and affirmation!!
Crystal harris says
This is an amazing discovery for me. I am searching for ways to reparent myself at 33 so that I can be a better mother.
Moon Maiden says
A truly powerful piece! Most often we feel isolated in our pain, but reading your blog and the comments that follow make us realise we are all trying to heal ourselves alongside each other. That in itself is empowering. Thank you for putting into words what I have been struggling with for so long, and for giving practical ways to make it better. Sending a virtual hug to you, Rachel. And to every mama reading this who is fighting the same battles we are. Love and respect to all. <3
Dr John Rich says
I’m happy for you that you made this discovery. I hear so many parents defend their parenting by saying, “My parents did it to me, and I turned out ok.” Just because they did it to you, doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Thank you. This piece is very strong
Thank you Rachel. I have been reading your blog for years. This is the first time I leave a comment. This is really what I needed! Thank you for being part of my parenting network 😊
I came back to reread this today and pass it along to a friend. Thank you!
Thank you so much for sharing !!! It is really what i needed at the moment.
Reading this, has given me deep understanding and made me realise so much! I am so touched. Youve answered some huge questions Ive had for a long time, about feeling overwhelmed and useless when my own children have acted out. I now understand how I have been triggered with my own children, because of my parents own authoritative and unfortunately narcissistic parenting styles used on me. Wow. I have much to learn, even at age 49, and to look forward to now with my own teenage children. Thank you thank you thank you so much, I am deeply grateful…..
I’m so glad it resonated and am truly thankful for this lovely comment! This is why I share what I do.
This is amazing – thank you! It helps me because as someone was raised respectfully and strives to be respectful, I often don’t understand what sort of a journey respectful parenting can be for those of us who are trying to break patterns from our own childhoods. It also helps me deal better with people who fo not respect how I parent.
Aquila Salta says
I find myself unable to leave your blog! I can’t stop reading it! I must say you have a very unique voice in writing, which I personally appreciate. Thanks again Racheous!
I have had thoughts about this in the past but have never been able to put it into words or in my head. When I first read and understood gentle and instinctual parenting it light bulbed my life and I could see potential for it in EVERY relationship. And it is so very important in the relationship I have with myself!! I had started to “forgive” myself to try and find peace but lately the inner anxiety voice has been ruling the show. Time to let that voice go and use my own patience love and understanding with myself. Xxxx
This has helped me. I would love to read more about making this happen.
Meaghan Jackson says
Oh Wow this has got to be one of the most powerful helpful posts I’ve ever read. THANK YOU! I was just talking to my husband the other day about how hard and lonely parenting is. It hadn’t occurred to me that I was treating myself as my parents did, while trying to change how I was treating my own kids!! I am excited now for change, my inner child is bursting with excitement at the thought of empathy and being heard (even if it comes from myself). Thank you again for writing about this.
Thank you for this. So much resinated so deeply with what and how Im dealing with life. So
appreciate your eloquence and insight. Will check out your blog. Thank you
Anna Vaschina says
Transformative it is. Such powerful words, true and profound.
Supporting the inner child led me to confront an abuser and later walk away from my mother (toxic and had completely abandoned me to support the abuser). Both difficult and painful yet empowering. Left at a loose end I see now that re-parenting myself is like the next part of the journey for me (even at 50 I can learn, grow and change). *tears*.
Thank you Rachel.🌸
You are an inspiration to have come this far. Sending you love and strength for the next leg of your journey 🌹🌺🌷
I learned that while in therapy for depression. I was exactly like you describe. I also had to forgive my parents for making me feel bad about myself, even if unintentionally. I feel much better now after those two years working on those same issues. Thank you for writing this.
This strikes such a chord with me! Thank you!