I’m Mixed Up

Not all conditioning is all negative or all positive, just like not all people are all bad or all good. We all get a strange mix. Besides the seriously negative forms of abuse described above some get the other extreme, or somewhere in between… a mixed bag. Instead of neglect and abuse, they get lots of attention, affection, stimulation, protection, guidance, with different approaches to discipline, and often deeply tinged with several negative expressions. There are, once again, varying degrees of these from parents, grandparents, nannies and caregivers. For many couples, when they just get married and are still very happy together, and things are going well, they have a home and maybe a car, they have a stable income and things are stable, and the first baby comes along then they are so overwhelmed with joy and love and a mix of many emotions.

They are new to parenting and not really prepared for it and so they are afraid, nervous, and have this sense of extreme fragility of the newborn, and so they take every precaution, and fuss and fret, and they get everything that’s required. They over dress the child, over clean, and over bath, over cream and over powder and pamper. They spend lots of time together, good happy quality time, mother, father and baby, and often other family members, and there is good feelings between everyone and baby is very clean and smells great, but more importantly,  in loving caring arms… and this is wonderful.

It starts out wonderful but somewhere along the line the following happens. The expenses increase, the challenges and struggles increase. Caring for a new born takes time, energy, and learning a range of new skills like changing stinky nappies. Life is never the same again, and it takes a little getting used to. If a parent is conscious and open to life, they will realize that it is mostly a positive change and they will adapt to it and grow. But some struggle with this. Also it takes its toll on the relationship, and differences in personality become accentuated by differences in parenting style, pointing to more deeper rooted differences in upbringing, also to a certain extent culture and ‘expectations’. Moving forward then there are a number of ways that well-meaning parents, sincerely trying their best, doing everything required and expected, and more… doing a decent job, but somehow still manage to install several negative patterns in their child. There are certain parenting principles that almost every couple, or parent will inevitably struggle with. Keep in mind that children are unique and all come with their own individual capacity and gifts, abilities and vulnerabilities, needs and wants. Its equal parts Nature, and Nurture. That is to say that how a child ‘turns out’ is as much to do with their own innate spirit as it is to do with our influence and conditioning.

Independence

Where do we draw the line between being negligent and being over-protective? On the one hand you don’t want to expose your child to danger and harm, sickness and pathogens, but on the other you don’t want to stifle them, and weaken their own defenses and bodily systems, and in time, diminish their ability to make informed decisions for themselves and take responsibility for their actions and lives. It may seem like all that is far off, but it starts from day one, and it is a reinforcing pattern. There is nothing wrong with affection, love and nurturing, but too much protection can lead to either disempowerment of the child and making them increasingly dependent or clashes and battle of the wills to establish dominance. Some children are just inherently independent and despite your best efforts will want to do things for themselves, but others may need you to teach them independence. Will you shield them from any and all dangers? Or will you allow them to take risks, but still be in a position to prevent injury or damage?

Self-Discipline

The old adage goes if you’re too soft and allowing on don’t enforce strict discipline and boundaries with your kids you will ‘spoil’ them, resulting in unruly, rude, bad behavior… brats! This is only partially true and not in the way that most people intend it. Children are born pure, there is no manipulative and naughty tendencies in them, they are so deeply alive and that’s what’s so wonderful and magical about them, but they cry, and have needs and fears, they need their mummies, to be close, to nurse them, to keep them happy. Daddies also play a very important role, which becomes increasingly equally important as mummy as the child grows older. But both are role models, examples to their children of how to speak, how to behave, how to get what you want. Parents are all the time, continuously transmitting subtle and obvious cues about language, and behavior, to their children who sponge it all in, and turn it eventually into their own talk, and act.

Children are not spoiled because of a lack of discipline, they are spoiled by parents teaching them egoic behavior patterns… by the parent’s lack of self discipline

In their childish developmental way they reflect the parents personalities back to them, and the parents and other people react to this but they don’t recognize it as their own behavior because their own ‘acting out’ is much more refined and grown-up. When they shout and scream at each other, blame and accuse, use and manipulate, communicate angrily, sarcasm and hurl insults etc. they feel they are justified in doing it, because they can and must. But when the child starts doing it, after years of observing mummy and daddy, throwing adult tantrums, and arguing with each other, then it’s the child,

…he is naughty, he is rude, and he is such a brat!”

Discipline is important and it has to be done with care. Sometimes shouting is necessary to prevent injury or avoid danger, but generally any form of verbal or emotional, and physical violence is counterproductive, and is more an expression of the parent’s inability to control themselves and discipline themselves, and goes back to their own upbringing. Many parents don’t really think about all these things they just live reactively in the direct personal experience of it. If the child makes them angry, they feel free to react. The child is less powerful, fully dependent and there are no repercussions so they ‘discipline’. Out of pain and fear the child will obey and listen and do as commanded and the parent feels he/she has succeeded. He or she may have succeeded in getting the situation resolved as they would like, to their satisfaction, by getting the child to comply in the easiest, quickest way but they are not aware of the actual repercussions of their bad behavior just like you are not aware of your own behavior. And there are very real repercussions, the most immediate and obvious is the example you are teaching them. That this is how you do it,

….this is how you get your way… shout, scream, and hit!”

Parents who bring a little more consciousness and thought into problem solving, give their children respect, they acknowledge their feelings and upset and try to understand the source of it, or root of it. They feel upset and irritated when the child appears to be misbehaving, but they suppress the instinct to shout and scream hit, and basically throw a grown-up tantrum, but instead they bring a balanced positive mix between anger and love. They must be sufficiently upset in order to do something about the bad behavior, but also there must be sufficient love to ensure that what is done is what is fair, and most beneficial to all concerned especially the child and any other people who are involved, like a person who the child was rude to, or the other parent, or sibling. The child must know that the parent is not happy with what they have done, and this can be communicated with a stern, clear voice, and reprimanding language, but does not have to include, the shout, scream and hit. Shout, scream, hit makes the child fearful yes, compliant sometimes, but generally makes them trust you and like you less. The more you erode trust the more your relationship with them will become a routine and a game, and eventually a real struggle, and decreasingly beautiful and inspiring, until there is nothing left but resentment and bitterness. They will fear you not love you!

You create more and more distance and barriers between you and them, until there is no real relationship remaining.”

It is possible in many circumstance to talk nicely to the child, and to appeal to them through a real sincere heart to heart, explaining what you want them to do, and why, and very often even though they don’t understand everything you said, they will have felt it and they will respond. Sometimes this approach doesn’t work in certain situations. The important thing is you must be able to sincerely communicate love and invite the child to work with you, and sometimes it is difficult especially when they are already in a certain mood and you cannot sufficiently calm them down, or calm yourself down to have the heart to heart. But sometimes it works with amazing results, and you really feel so good and connected when it does. It’s worth a try!

The primary way for children to learn boundaries and consequences is for them to experience socially the products or repercussions of their naughtiness or bad behavior. What it means to the other person and what it means to their relationship. Generally a child is helpless and harmless for the first year or so. They generally are not even capable of doing anything wrong, or rude or naughty and you wouldn’t get angry at a newborn or infant for crying or pooing. Its just what they do, its all natural and necessary. What often happens is that generally parents and others find the child so cute and adorable that as the child grows and slowly develops their personality and starts to test their environment and the people around them… parents still find it all so cute, and they are willing to overlook a lot and ignore it, because it’s not serious it was a mistake, or even if it wasn’t a mistake its ok, she is so small, and I love her so much. This continues for a while, and the child continues to be more assertive and more bold in their self-expression, testier, and more ‘destructive’ breaking things, fighting and crying. And eventually a tipping point is reached. Its not so cute anymore, and daddy and mummy are no longer willing or able to overlook, and that is when the clashes and fights begin.

When this turning point happens on a particular day let’s say the child is really rude to someone or does something naughty like break something or throw sand at someone. So daddy gets angry, is suddenly full of righteous indignation, he shouts, maybe even slaps the child, and banishes him to his room. Later daddy calms down and feels bad about this, he over-reacted, and he doesn’t know what came over him. He welcomes the child back, he cannot apologize, but he is satisfied that the child was ‘taught’ a lesson, the child is happy to be out of punishment and back in daddy’s good books and so they patch up and carry on like nothing ever happened. That’s the typical process of discipline. In this case the only thing that the child learnt is how to react aggressively and nothing else. The child can only connect the punishment to the behavior… “me do something… daddy get angry…. me feel pain…” he did not learn that the bad behavior was intrinsically wrong because it hurts someone else or is unfair.

If the parent was more balanced and conscious then the parent would feel a bit of anger, but more-so disappointment, and perhaps sadness. The child needs to see how their rudeness made you feel, and how if he or she continues with this kind of behavior what would be the personal consequences and the social outcomes. Or rather, think of it this way… if someone else, more grown up were to treat you like this you would not shout and slap them and send them to their room for being rude to you but you will lose respect and trust for them. You would not really like them much and would not want to spend time with them. Of course that is not the way you think of your own child, but ultimately you want to build in them the tools of social and emotional intelligence and this basically means being able to feel what other people feel, empathy. Now all these complex emotions and ideas are difficult to communicate to a child, but essentially you need to show and explain how their behavior made you feel and give them a taste of what that means. We are so used to ignoring our feelings and suppressing and hiding them, within the home for our partner and child, that this is a challenge.

How do you access that emotion, allow yourself to feel it and communicate it to your child, but not lose yourself to it, and still have love and care overseeing the entire process?”

It is not easy! In truth your children can from the very beginning intuit and feel the emotions of those around them but not in the way we may think, because our experience of it is more colored by memory and language. Their ability to feel is very quickly closed down because what they feel and sense around is mostly negativity. Outwardly parents may be communicating a lot of love and affection for the child and that is great, but inwardly they are feeling a range of surface and deeper negative emotions and emotional routines and they communicate this to others. These are assuaged for a while by the birth of the child, and people feel a wave or surge of well-being for a while, and so only positivity and good vibes are directed at the child but eventually they return to their habitual patterns and soon they are patterning the child with the very same energy, firstly indirectly and then directly. Children resist this kind of patterning intuitively and they act out and challenge their parents on their parent’s weak spots, they often push instinctively right where the parent is most sensitive. They also learn manipulative tactics and strategies from the parents, and they start to use these on the parents. They start to be more intelligent and getting the way, getting what they want. This becomes harder and harder to balance your care and affection with your need to discipline and express upset, and your awareness of what is best for your child. But if you can bring awareness of this dynamic into your approach to parenting from the very beginning you will be able to avoid many of the mistakes and pitfalls that most parents are unconsciously repeating over and over ad-nauseum.

Basically the primary way of good discipline is Self-Discipline which your child will learn to emulate. So discipline yourself first! But none of us are perfect so we have to use a range of outer disciplining methods, techniques or tactics. Shout, scream, swear and hit, are the first in many parent’s arsenal but it is obvious that these methods only win the immediate battle but lose the ‘war’. The child’s personality is not improved and enhanced and equipped for a meaningful life and healthy relationships, but rather is distorted, twisted and warped into a reflection of their parents own dysfunctionality.

The secondary way to discipline a child is to appreciate and understand what motivates them, basically what is important to them and what you can control to reward or punish them. Rewards are TV, games on your phone, treats and snacks, outings to play areas etc. etc. Punishment can include time-out, or sitting alone somewhere, but this must not be in a closed, dark room!!! There must be access and freedom, but the child must accept the temporary limitation of access and freedom because of their bad behavior. It could also include removal of rights to toys, or TV, or games, but whatever it is it must always be done with a sense of proportion to the transgression, with a view to getting the child to see the ‘wrongness’ of the act. What was wrong about throwing sand in the baba’s face? He doesn’t see that and that’s the problem. If you hit him and shout him and tell him not to do that again, he will cry and agree to never do it again, but he will forget and he will do it again. Even if you traumatize him and make him so scared that he constantly remembers – even then he is not acting out of a moral caring impulse but out of fear. So you have once again lost the ‘war’. You have failed to instill positive values in your child. You took the easy way out, the quick way.

If the child messes the floor with juice, then rather than shout, scream, hit, get the child to fetch a cloth, and if it was a mistake get them to help you clean up the mess. If it was out of naughtiness or spite, then make them clean up the mess, and assist as required. The child will learn consequences much better that way, and will be self-motivated not to do that again. If the child breaks something then of course it’s different because of the danger of getting cut, but there are many situations and many scenarios that you will have to work with, but if you understand the principles involved and if you are able to bring a conscious aware understand approach to discipline and parenting than you will do a good job, you will succeed.

Often parents get angry at their children for no real or apparent reason. Sometimes they are just venting their own frustrations and surface and deeper upset, but sometimes it is mere perception and expectation that gives rise to a lot of the ‘discipline’ and battles. They thing certain things have to be done a certain way or else, cos they grew up with that way, but it is not necessarily the only way, in fact very often parents impose unnecessary constraints on children.

Perfection

“Oh my goodness. She is perfect!”

Many parents think their child is perfect and they are, but gradually it changes from a recognition of the purity and innocence to a projected reflection of the parents own image and unfulfilled ambitions. The parent uses the child to compensate for all the other issues and imperfections, failures and broken dreams and broken hearts in their lives. They bring the child up to satisfy them and so they condition them by giving them rewards and treats, attention and affection if they comply and satisfy them in the way they expect and want. When they’re still very young it is not so noticeable but as they grow older parents start to vicariously live through their children and tend to dominate their lives and make decisions for them and control their time and energy. They want them to do well at school and so children develop a competitive attitude in which their self-worth and self-esteem is related to their ability to achieve and to win. They are pushed to perform and they learn to push themselves to perform. If they don’t win and come out tops, their parents withhold affection and rewards, and in time it becomes internalized and so they grow to think that they have to come out tops in order to be happy and worth anything to anyone. They have to be perfect, but nobody can be perfect, so they do the next best thing which is appear to be perfect.

Confidence

Many parents are confident. They got a goo dearly foundation and so they were always valued, acknowledged, nurtured, respected, and they learnt to value themselves and their ideas and opinions etc. They give the same to their children, and so these kids have both a good foundation and a strong positive example. This will be good for any child, those with innate inherent capacity and those who are still developing, they will grow up much more emotionally stable and open and happy, and they will face the struggles and challenges of life alot better than kids who don’t get the right foundation and example.

Many parents are quiet, shy types and so they communicate this to their kids, and they teach them shyness and not confidence. The child feels and observes fear in them and withdrawal from situations that seem fearful, and the child learns to fear and will approach things, challenges in a similar way, because that what they saw, learnt, felt, imbibed. If you want your kid to be confident you have to challenge yourself and your comfort zone and start doing things differently. It’s the only way. No amount of coaching, and explaining, and rewarding and punishing is going to have any real lasting effect. Whereas you being courageous and confident and your child seeing this and feeling this, will make all the difference. The same goes for every other quality or personality trait. Respect, empathy, kindness, trustworthiness, patience, etc. etc. You have to do it, you have let your child feel that energy!

Think about your child all grown up. Think about or visualize him/her and what you would like them to be like. Describe them to yourself. You may use words like:

Happy, successful, independent, confident, wise, friendly, a good man/woman, a good husband/wife, a joyous relationship/s … etc.”

Now ask yourself, do I have these things? Am I communicating these things, am I living these things to him/her? The answer will always be “No” because none of us can ever attain that ideal we hold in our heads, and our ideals are sometimes unreasonable and mixed up, but basically just appreciate that you love your child, and you want what’s best for them, and that comes from you and your partner, as parents, being a good example of all those things. Be your child’s hero!

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