How to stop judging your parenting skills, empower your kids, and enjoy being different!
By: Dr. Dain Heer
The greatest thing we often want for our kids is for them to feel comfortable or happy being themselves. We are told that helping kids ‘fit in’ socially and do well in school is a huge part of achieving this. This point of view often tugs at our own memories of angst and loneliness, or feeling like we didn’t fit in ask a kid, and we try desperately to do the ‘right’ things to make sure our kids have an easier time. The only thing about fitting in socially is, it’s often less about being ourselves, and more about where we try to become something other people will accept – how much do you have to bend, fold and mutilate you to be or do that will make other people like you and accept you? What if this was not actually the assistance our kids need? What if embracing the differences that other people (including teachers, relatives, peers and ‘experts’) might judge as weird or ‘unsociable’ about your kid, was the key to actually having them be themselves with ease in any situation?
When you’re around others and you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed or burdened trying to please everyone around you, have you ever paused to ask this one simply but seemingly important question: am I being me? Do I change who I am to make others happy? It’s an interesting question to think upon, as many times when we feel judged by others we tend to show them another version of ourselves. And our kids see us do this and learn from our own choices. What would you like your kids to have the option of choosing, if they find themselves in a similar situation? Would you want them to pander to others, or be true to themselves? Would you be willing to be the different example that invites them to that possibility?
There are many situations at school or in life when you can feel like you are overwhelmed with judgments and angst during class, with peers and friends, and family.
If that’s you or your kid, please know that you are definitely not alone, my friends!
No matter the social, family or school dynamics, these are tools you can use – and invite your kids to use too – as these will create more ease with dealing with the judgment, projections and points of view that people have of you, and to stop going into judgment of yourself too:
1. What if you, your kid or anyone else weren’t right or wrong, just interesting?
What if you had a different choice, and didn’t have to get ‘stuck’ with whatever the people around you have going on? Most people form all kinds of opinions about each other – and often the ones who are closest to you, like family, who are supposed to understand you better than anyone, can be the most opinionated! But you don’t have to make them relevant or react to them.
Here’s a tool that might help: For every judgment that you become aware of that you or anyone has of you, say to yourself “Wow, that’s an interesting point of view.” Say it a few times, and notice if anything lightens up in your world at all. And if you find yourself starting to go down that familiar rabbit-hole of self-judgment or old upsets, visualize a big red STOP sign in front of you…and don’t go there! Look at it and go “interesting point of view that I have this point of view about ______” until it dissipates.
Oh, and a note to adults – kids are actually a lot faster and willing to let things go than you are. You can always ask them “is that your point of view, or someone else’s?” “Is it real or true, or just interesting?” Kids tend to naturally go towards what feels lighter in their world, and what is true for them is always lighter and happier. When we buy lies about who we are, that’s when we feel upset.
2. Gratitude creates more peace than love and acceptance.
We have been sold that seeking love and acceptance will give us the joy and peace we are looking for in life. The only thing is, every person has a different definition of love, and it never comes without condition and caveats. What if what you thought you would get from love and acceptance actually comes from gratitude?
Write down something you are grateful for in your life, and then write down three things you are grateful for about you. The wonderful thing about gratitude is that it brings you out of judgement of you and the people around you, so that you can begin to see the gift they are in your life, no matter what they choose. Maybe you will begin to see the gift that you are too?
Practice this with your kids – ask them what three things are they grateful for today? And what they become aware of today that they hadn’t acknowledged before? Acknowledging kids for their awareness is something that few people are willing to do. Kids are supposedly meant to be taught and told things, so they don’t often get acknowledged for what they know, for the things they are aware of that are actually brilliant. If your kid has a problem going on in life or at school, a great question to ask them is “what are you aware of about (this person or situation)?” or “What do you know about this that I don’t?”
3. Don’t take on the crazy stuff.
Many times you need to make a point to consider what is going on in someone else’s life. Are they worried about money? About not doing enough or having enough? Are they worried about getting along with the in-laws and all kinds of things? Perhaps the tension you’re feeling really has nothing to do with you at all. The great thing is, you don’t have to take any of it on. When an unnecessary emotion or feeling comes up, ask ‘Who does this belong to?’ Is it really yours, or are you just aware of other people’s craziness going on around you? Again, your kids are very, very aware – they will know when there is angst going on in your universe, and they will know when a teacher is cranky or classmates are acting out, but they may often think they are the cause of things rather than recognizing they are just aware. When you ask ‘Who does this belong to?’ you get to see where you are just aware, and not the source or reason for any of it.
4. Choose what makes you happy!
You may not want to hear this, but I will tell you anyway: you can be right, or you can be happy. You can’t be both. What if you didn’t have to change other people’s points of view about you – what if you could be judged a ‘bad’ parent, and have a joyful life and joyful kids anyway? What if you didn’t have to change anyone’s point of view about your kid either – do you want them to be liked and ‘right’ in other people’s eyes, or be happy and free? When do you feel most happy? When you are judging you as messed up with problems? Or when you are not thinking, not judging and not trying to have a problem or fix things – like when you are in nature for example? What makes your kid happy? And whatever it is, choose more of that! And if you or your kid get stuck thinking you are definitely messed up, then ask: “What’s right about me I am not getting?”
The funny thing is, the more we are willing to be ourselves, not judge ourselves or buy into other people’s judgments of us, and the more fun we are willing to have, people that actually like you for you and don’t desire to judge you, begin to show up.
Nothing is set in stone. No matter the situation, good or bad, you can change things with a question. Knowing this is a huge gift as a parent and as a child. Even asking a question as simple as “How does it get any better than this?” when something good, or something ‘bad’ shows up, can create more ease in any situation.
Most importantly, be yourself. Don’t change who you are or what you do based on the opinions of other people around you – by choosing this in your own life, you are the invitation for your kid to be that for themselves – which ultimately gives them so much more choice and freedom in life that trying to fit into a world that doesn’t necessarily fit them. Enjoy your difference, and enjoy the difference your kids are in the world!
What if you truly being you (and your kids being them), is exactly what the world needs?
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