Be who you needed when you were younger.

The first time I saw this picture it really resonated with me. My mind raced back to times in my childhood when I felt betrayed, misunderstood or deeply devastated. What would I have needed, what type of person or actions would I have appreciated. I had a little daydream of how wonderful it would be if I was the kind of mother who could be all those things for my two girls.

Then I thought about it a little more. What would that mother be like? What would she say in those similar devastating situations and how would that whole scenario play out?

I had a few moments of feeling great about myself and how I was going to morph into this amazingly understanding, patient saintly mom. Neither that thought nor did the reality of that last very long.

I have spent my entire career observing and experiencing various dynamics between parent and child (and parent and parent), in thousands of families of various nationalities, cultures, age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds. There is no doubt that underlying the actions of (almost) every parent, is the well-being of their child. Besides shaping the thoughts of what I would like to try and what I would like to avoid in my own parenting journey it has shown me a very common trend. People who did not like their childhood, or an experience in their childhood swing so far to the opposite extreme, that it is seldom very helpful to the child. A common example is; people who were brought up with excessively strict parents, who perhaps gave them hidings often, will tend to raise their children with absolutely no boundaries, no consequences of any kind and basically no rules. So while I don’t agree with being excessively rigid or smacking your child, I don’t necessarily agree with giving your child no boundaries… there is a line somewhere in the middle which seems to be most effective.

It has taken me many years (and a fair amount of therapy) to put labels to my childhood scars and bruises and to discuss ways to avoid having those scars burden my children. In no ways does that mean I am the single human on the planet that sees themselves in an unbiased light… because let’s be honest, we all look at ourselves through a filter (whether that filter is rose-coloured or a horrible shade of judgement).

I guess instead of trying so hard to be who you didn’t have or who you needed, a more useful goal might be to work at seeing what your child really needs. To ask yourself what would best benefit your child in this moment, where are they struggling and how can you help make that struggle easier for them. This may include speaking to the other adults or caregivers in their lives or it might mean some therapy for you (or them). It might just mean saying sorry more often or hugging them a little longer.

Our children are their own little beings, with their own hang-ups and sensitivities and their own strengths and passions… looking at them as that instead of as mini versions of ourselves is (for me) a great start on the road to giving them what they might need the most.

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