Transforming My Life

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When Our Kids Mess Up

stressed-out-womenMost of us work very hard to not make mistakes.

I hate making mistakes.   Almost every humiliating mistake I have made is chiseled in my memory – the Sunday in 8th grade when I tripped and fell down the stairs  as an acolyte and the congregation gasped like they were watching fireworks on the 4th of July (I still remember how I ripped my panty hose, broke a toe nail and almost lit my dress on fire); or the time I was beside myself leaving a note on the windshield of a car that I had just side swiped in a parking lot.  Sadly, the list doesn’t stop there.  I could go on and on, but I can’t stand thinking about it.   The panicky feelings, the blood rushing to my face, the mental-flagellation of what an idiot I am,  “Who does this?  What a clod!  You always do this kind of stupid stuff.” ( you know you’re in shame territory when you use the word always).

Obviously, some mistakes are more costly than others.  This is what we are terrified of when it comes to our children making mistakes.  And let’s face it, some of us have kids that push the envelope and have to learn the hard way.  This can leave us constantly on edge, anxious every time the phone rings, or waiting for the next shoe to drop.  Mistakes can be small, like falling down the church stairs and suffering some embarrassment, or they can be much more devastating.

I think most of us would agree that we want our children to grow up, move out, and be happy, healthy and thriving adults.

In order for this to happen we must learn to let go and give our children the space and grace to make mistakes.  Making mistakes are a part of the process of becoming a mature adult.  We all recognize even grown ups make mistakes.

Here are a few principles to reflect on when it comes to allowing our children to make mistakes:

1.  It is not a reflection on you.  

Mistakes are loaded with self-condemnation and judgements.  So many moms I work with (myself included) fight so much shame when it comes to their children’s mistakes. Could it be we fear their mistakes are a reflection on us?  My answer -“You betcha”.   Oftentimes, rather than admit our child’s shortcomings, we defend them or prefer to be in denial.  On a deeper level, we blame ourselves.

2.  Don’t allow your emotions to short change your chid’s learning process by protecting them from making mistakes.

To sooth our own anxiety, often we over-function for our kids. 

At the core, I believe we confuse fear with love.  We fear our child’s ability to handle situations in life, such things as homework, stressful situations, or being responsible with a multitude of things.  When we find ourselves in this uncomfortable, anxious place, we tend to want to alleviate our own stress and take matters into our own hands. It might feel like we are loving them in that moment, but the truth is we are enabling them.  We are keeping them young, and weak.

Just like a butterfly needs to fight its way out of a cocoon to survive, the same goes for our kids.  If you cut the cocoon open, the butterfly will not fly,  

Its wings never developing the strength it takes to soar.

Love allows our children to struggle and learn from the natural consequences of their choices. Natural consequences have a way of being better teachers than we ever could. As parents this can feel  scary, out of control, and be painful to watch.  We must “bite the bullet” and resist rescuing no matter how brutal this feels. If we rescue them today, it is only a matter of time we will have to do it again.

3.  Believe that your child is capable of figuring out their own problems.

We need to orient to the principle of responsibility when we feel unsure and tempted to give in and rescue our child. The principle of responsibility is allowing our child to become a mature, responsible adult, capable of figuring out what they need to do in any given situation. Rather than jumping in and solving their problems, we can coach and guide them. We need to listen and ask questions that reflect our belief in their ability to solve the issues they face.  When we hold our children with positive regard, the likelihood that they will rise to the occasion increases ten-fold.

4.  Treat yourself with grace and compassion when you make mistakes. 

When we learn to love and accept ourselves, mistakes and all, we become a safe oasis for our children to come home to. Permission is granted to be human, authentic and honest. Each of us is valuable and worthy of being loved, regardless of the mistakes we have made.  When we let go of the image we envisioned of how our child’s life “should” look, we reflect the kind of love that we all yearn for – a love that is unconditional, full of mercy and grace.  When our children experience a love like this, they feel free to be who they are, rather than who they think they need to be in order to feel loved and accepted.  I don’t really believe this has much to do with our children.  I believe it has to do with us.  The greater our capacity to love and accept ourselves with all our quirks, flaws and failures, the greater our capacity to give the same gift to our children.

So when our children “mess up”,  let us view this as an opportunity, not only for their own growth and development, but for ours as well.  We will all be the better for it.

Grace and peace,

Sheryl


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A Screaming Heart to….

shhhhBe Heard…..Listened to…..Cared About…..Accepted…

Listen! All I ask is that you listen.

Don’t talk or do – just hear me.

Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get
 you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham 
in the same newspaper.

And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.  
Maybe discouraged and faltering,
 but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can
 and need to do for myself,
 you contribute to my fear and 
inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact
 that I feel what I feel,
 no matter how irrational, 
then I can stop trying to convince 
you and get about this business 
of understanding what’s behind
 this irrational feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are
 obvious and I don’t need advice. 
 Irrational feelings make sense when 
we understand what’s behind them.

Perhaps that’s why prayer works, sometimes, for some people – because God is mute, and he doesn’t give advice or try 
to fix things. 
 God just listens and lets you work
 it out for yourself.

So please listen, and just hear me. 
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
 for your turn – and I will listen to you.

Author Unknown


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What kind of Parent are you?

mom-yelling

In Jennifer Wyatt’s book, Getting to Calm –  Cool -Headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens and Teens, she describes four parenting styles that can help us on the journey to creating healthier relationships with our teens.

Are you a kibosher?

This style is heavy on control, power struggles, and about who is more “right”.  This can result in guilt tripping, shaming, and lecturing.

*Do you tend to find yourself making heavy-handed attempts to control your teen?

*Do you find yourself making statements like, “You are grounded for a month.”  “How dare you talk to me like that!”

*Do feel responsible to put an end to your teen’s rudeness right then and there by coming down too hard?

*Do you find yourself trying to manage your teen’s behavior and their thoughts and feelings, too?

*Do you tend to lean towards “right” and “wrong”, “black or white” thinking?

By the time a teen reaches the teen years, a parent that is intent on pure control of rudeness and bad attitude can be in for a nonstop power struggle.  Constantly focusing on and trying to control your teen’s bad attitude, and trying to get it to change can bring a lot of strife and struggle.

This style of parenting damages the relationship with your child.

“Children reared by intrusive parents who demonstrate this kind of ‘Psychological control’ are more likely to show patterns of guilt, dependency, aggression, alienation, social withdrawal, low self-esteem, and depressed feelings.”  The paradox is that this style of parenting leads to exactly what no one wants – loss of control.

The Romantics –

This style of parenting swings to the opposite extreme of the kibosher’s.

*Are you excessively indulgent and permissive, without adequate authority?

*Do you have idealized notions of trying to be the perfect parent?

*Do you hover and find yourself trying too hard to stay close to your children?

*If you are honest about it, do you find yourself feeling needy to be liked by your teen?

If you fall into this category of parenting style you will find yourself struggling to hold your ground against your mouthy and moody teen.

“Rules and consistency – ingredients of good parenting – fall by the wayside.”

The Bouncers – 

This parenting style is a combination of the kibosh and the romantic.   These parents often guilt trip and shame only to find themselves feeling guilty and then caving in.

*Do you find yourself swinging between ruling with an iron fist one day and permissiveness the next?

*Do you find yourself overcome with outrage at your teen’s obnoxious ways and rush in to ground him for life?

*At other times do you find yourself too tired to take on your teen and give in and let it go?

The Shrewd Choosers –  

This is the most effective parenting style.

These parents are clear in their authority and at the same time there is ongoing give and take with their teen.  They pick their battles, based on parenting rule number one:  Keep a mostly positive relationship.

A useful standard is five to one.  Each negative interaction needs to be balanced with five positive ones.

“Teens are moody by nature, and shrewd choosers accept that their children might have negative feelings about them, particularly during this “individuation” phase of life – and especially when teens don’t get what they want.”  Expect teens to express their upset.  Whether dealing with a smart mouth or making a parenting judgment call, these moms and dads walk a fine line – they hold the standards and values they put into place while being open to negotiate new privileges when appropriate.

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The Greatest Gift We Can Give

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I just left a friend after pouring my heart out about doubts and insecurities with my own value and self-worth.   I am so grateful for her willingness to simply listen without criticism and judgment.  I didn’t need her to “fix it” or tell me how valuable I was.  I just needed a safe friend to hold space for me in a time of discouragement.  I needed to feel heard and understood.

 I believe this is the most loving gift I can give to others and to myself.   A listening ear and the freedom to express feelings is a priceless offering I want to give to my children, my husband, and to others.  This can be uncomfortable and unfamiliar when I find myself unwilling to accept my own feelings.  I often judge and condemn my feelings or pretend they are not there.  I need to remind myself that there is no right or wrong with feelings.  They are what they are. The gift I can give to myself is the courage to risk opening up and sharing those parts of myself that I want to hide when they are screaming to be heard.  I need grace and compassion from others when I am unable to give it to myself.  I don’t need to be criticized or shamed.  I can do a good enough job with that on my own.  I often just need to get clear around what I am feeling.  At times like these, my thoughts get all jumbled up and I feel like I make no sense.  In these moments I tend to catastrophize.  Sometimes I need to yell and cry.

I love how Brene Brown says it in her book, Daring Greatly, “Empathy is a strange and powerful thing.  There is no script.  There is no right way or wrong way to do it.  It’s simply listening, holding space, with-holding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of  ‘You’re not alone’.”

Empathy and understanding is what my family needs most from me.  They need to know I am a safe refuge for them to share themselves vulnerably.  Unfortunately, I have not always done a good job at this.  The more I am willing to be vulnerable with my deep flaws and accept and love myself, the easier it is to accept and love others.    The path of vulnerability is the place where I am learning to heal and find wholeness. When I love and speak truth to these parts of myself  I silence the Critic that lives inside of me.  If I can be a voice of love, acceptance and encouragement to my children when they are feeling ugly, messy and discouraged it will change the course of their lives.

Today when I left my friend, I had a huge weight lifted that was holding me down.  Life no longer feels all doom and gloom.  I am connected to myself again.  My thoughts are no longer all jumbled and I make sense.  Each day I am committed to loving and accepting myself for who I am because that is valuable and I am worth it.  You are too.

Love and Grace,

Sheryl