August 29, 2011

What do we want for our children?

To be happy.  To give and receive love.
To be well in body, mind & spirit.

How to do this?
Mindful Parenting.
Instilling self-esteem and self-confidence.
Being an excellent role model.
And a whole lot ‘o love!

Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development states when children are preschoolers, they try to behave in ways that involve more ‘grown up’ responsibility. At this age when they take initiative, it is important parents react in a positive way to instill self-esteem and self-confidence otherwise the child may feel confused and/or guilty about their behavior.

Sometimes we confused shame and guilt, so let me take a moment here to talk about the difference between them. In her wonderful book, The Gifts of Imperfections, Brené Brown defines shame as – I am bad, and guilt as – I did something bad. In the chapter Origins of Guilt, from the book Guilt and Children, Karen Caplovitz Barrett states that Jerome Kagan’s Theory proposes that guilt is not possible until children can recognize that they can choose how to behave and he states that does not happen until the age of four.  In a journal article (yup – I’m a Grad Student) from 1982, Martin Hoffman describes ‘healthy guilt’ as an appropriate response to harming another and is resolved through atonement, such as making amends, apologizing or accepting punishment.’ He describes ‘unhealthy guilt as ‘a pervasive sense of responsibility for others’ pain that is not resolved, despite efforts to atone.’

As a Life/Health Coach I frequently hear many clients talk about feeling guilty, so let’s take it just a bit further so we understand for ourselves (if we tend to feel guilty) and so we have some information about how to address this if we are still raising children. Brené Brown’s  research shows that children who use more shame self-talk (I am bad) versus guilt self-talk (I did something bad) struggle mightily with issues of self-worth and self-loathing. Using shame to parent teaches children that they are not inherently worthy of love.  (Thank you, Brené, for that last sentence, which may explain a lot for so many.) Furthermore, in research about shame and guilt in preschool depression (say – what?! – preschooler depression?!), it was determined that high levels of shame and pathological guilt are a known feature in adult depression. So, it’s easy to see the importance of being mindful of how we deal with our children from the emotional standpoint.

How do we act and react with others? What is our communication style? How do we spend our time? When we live with intention and purpose, we are modeling for our children. Brené Brown (2010) writes in The Gifts of Imperfection: Where we are on our journey of living and loving with our whole hearts is a much stronger indicator of parenting success than anything we can learn from how-to books. I believe that when we evaluate our own values and beliefs and determine if we are living in alignment with them, it can be an important part of evaluating our parenting style.

Think about the following when parenting (really when in relationship with ANYbody)

  • Treat children with respect, always.
  • Show them unconditional love, especially when disciplining.
  • Set limits and be consistent, challenging and a must!
  • Spend time with your kids. Not just ‘with’ them – but WITH them.  Be present.
  • Decision-making – give them choices rather than telling them what to do.
    (exception would include – when it involves their safety)
  • Demonstrate by example. Be an excellent role model.

They are all important, for sure, however, in closing – I’d like to take a look at the fourth bullet. It is about spending quality time with your kids. This reminds me of the Cat Steven’s song (written by Harry Chapin) – The Cats in the Cradle. It’s about a father who is too busy for his son. As he is growing up the son says ‘you know I’m gonna be like you, Dad’.  The son wants to play catch. The son asks the father to spend time with him in various ways, but the father is always working or busy and doesn’t make time for his son. Then when the son is grown, and has a family of his own, the father is not as busy.  The father asks his son to spend time with him and the son says ‘I’d love to Dad, if I could find the time. You see my new jobs a hassle, and the kids have the flu. But It’s sure nice talking to you, Dad, It’s been sure nice talking to you……..“ And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me – He’d grown up just like me, My boy was just like me…………..’

Living Life, Making ‘parenting’ Choices – what are they for you?


There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.
~ Hodding Carter, Jr.

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