Challenges of parenting – in light of the imprints of our past

by | Jun 16, 2018 | Education, Personal growth | 0 comments

I have a friend from childhood, who today is married and a mother of 3 children. She is a very devoted mother who loves her children above all else and wants the best for them. Nevertheless, one often hears her yelling at her children, for completely irrelevant things. 

When we talk about it, I remind her of her parents. They were quickly overwhelmed and yelled at their children every day, for little things. I tell her that it is more than understandable that she has adopted this pattern. That this is the reaction mostly emerges when she feels challenged, insecure or stressed.

She agrees with me. However, this understanding does not diminish her feelings of remorse. She tells me how she struggles to become a mother who can also talk to her children lovingly when they are not doing what she expects them to do. That she can stay calm and sovereign when she gets insecure or stressed. She recalls how she hated the frequent yelling of her own parents.

Have you ever felt that way, in any area of your parenting? Did you ever want to do something differently in such a strong way, because you hated to experience it as a kid – yet you felt unable to accomplish it?

If you do, I’m with you.

I was struggling a lot with that matter, even before I got a family.
I knew I didn’t want to repeat the pattern of my own family.

My father did the yelling too.
He frequently gave us the feeling of being a bother, of us disturbing his peace, costing a lot of money and simply being too much.
As a young adult, I struggled to handle children. I knew I didn’t want to yell at them, neither transmit any of these things I felt…But how to do it otherwise?
How could I be this adult I would have wished to have as parents? How would I know how to react differently?

I remember being deeply touched by observing families that dealt peacefully and lovingly with their children. I tried to absorb the way they did it and engrave it deep into my heart.

One of the reasons of doing this website comes out of that experience.
I would have loved to read about practical ways to create a healthy family.

Today I want to invite you to a journey. It is the journey of how I got rid of many of these imprints, these personal experiences that shaped my life and my behavior. How, even today, I persist on that journey, to transmit something very differently to my own children – and the beloved children (and adults) around me.

1.) I was eager to observe examples I wanted to imitate

Probably the most influential opportunity I had, to do just that, was during my first year of training experience in the day care center, where I did my education as a small children educator when I was about 26 years of age. The head teacher was a sweet lady, younger than me.
She showed me a very different way to handle small kids than the way I knew of.

  • Having a child that doesn’t want to hold on the stroller while walking along a busy street -what do you do?

Well, she was teaching me to give the children a choice: You can either hold on this side of the stroller, the other side (or even that other stroller) – or my hand. You can choose. None of the children ever resisted to happily choose one of these options. This, without me having to yell, without me getting impatient or upset with the child.

  • Or what do you do if a four-year old refuses to walk back to the daycare from the playground? You can’t just pull him all the way back there on his hand – neither can you stay longer, because of the daycare’s schedule?!

Well, I learned, to smile at him/her, saying: “Let’s go, there is a delicious lunch waiting for you” or “it was fun, isn’t it? The next day you come to daycare, we will come back here. Now your mom will arrive soon”…. or anything like that, depending on the situation and the child. We never had to pull a child by the hand from that playground or yell or insult a child to do what he needed to do.

2.) I studied the subject 

Because I only knew that I wanted to do it better but I didn’t know how I was supposed to do that, I was looking for material that reflected what I believed in my heart.
At this place I’d like to mention one of the books I read several times. It is called “The 7 habits of highly effective families”, written by S.R Covey. The author includes many stories about his own family, his own challenges and how he mastered them successfully.

Then I went as well to several seminars about child rearing long before I had a family. 

3.) I was willing to adjust the image I had of a child

As I said above, the way you grow up, the way your parents treat you and see you, leaves a strong impression on your heart.
It basically is the foundation of every action you take.

Do you believe your baby tries to manipulate you as parents? You will react accordingly.

Do you believe toddlers purposefully make your life difficult? You will react accordingly.

Do you believe your active, spontaneous child is full of wickedness? You will react accordingly.

The list goes on.

Therefore, it is vital to revise this image. It is important to honestly make an inventory of the beliefs in your heart, concerning a child.

This is not always easy, since it is tidily knit together with your past. Sometimes, these past experiences create a pattern in our lives, seemingly sticking stronger to us than superglue on paper.

The most radical and drastic changes I experienced always were in the presence of God, in times he was ministering to my heart – be it all by my own or together with others.

I will tell you about one of those times, simply to show you, how amazing God is. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, therefore, He’s not bound to time and He can change our reality about something that lies far behind in only a minute.

That day, as I was praying, I remembered a situation of my childhood.

I was about 7or 8 years old. We lived in a little town, surrounded by nature.
One day, I saw some cherries on a tree. I had a brilliant Idea: I would pick some for my parents!

I took a little basket I found somewhere in the house and filled it with delicious cherries from one of the trees in the surrounding.

In that prayer time I remembered how I, full of joy and excitement, went to my parents with that basket full of cherries.

My father was furious: “Where did you get those?” He asked me in a harsh tone. I started to feel guilty, without knowing what I had done wrong. I pointed in the direction where that specific tree was located. My father said: “You are a thief! You stole those cherries from a tree that doesn’t belong to us! Now you have to repent and confess it to the owner of the tree!” He took me by the hand, and pulled me, upset and scandalized, to that neighbor where I had to hand over that basket and confess what I did.

I don’t remember the neighbor’s answer. What I did remember, in that specific moment of prayer, was how I didn’t understand my world anymore. My motivation had been to bless my parents. To show them my love. What I got was the impression that I am a wicked girl, guilty of stealing.

Can you see how the image my father had of me had nothing to do with me and my heart, my motivation but everything with him?

The beautiful thing is, that during that moment of prayer, this reality completely changed:

Jesus entered the scene. I literally “saw” him, replacing my father, receiving that basket with cherries. I saw his eyes, full of love. He was smiling at me. Then he told me with a gentle, tender voice: Thank you so much, Jeanne for your heart! I love these cherries! And then, with humor and gentleness in his voice, he added: “But you know, actually, you shouldn’t go picking on trees that aren’t ours. But I love your heart! I love your motivation to bless me!!”

This reality imprinted deeply into my heart, and today this is what I do, if one of my children is in a similar situation! My memory literally changed to this new reality, and in that area, I am now able to react in a loving, gentle and affirming way.  I now have all that loving softness to explain part of that situation where they need to learn.

 

Every time I recall moments like these I am amazed and thankful. The beautiful thing is that you can experience the very same thing, independent of your life situation. Probably you can’t go and work in a daycare center to learn a different way. Maybe you aren’t someone reading a lot or unable to go to a seminary about child rearing. However, no matter where you are, what your life situation is, there is this beautiful presence of God who can change habits in such a simple way, while all the effort he needs of us is this openness to experience change and to sit down and pray.

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