Let me give you an example. Some of the parenting I had growing up was quite sharp and stern. Rules were not made to be broken, they were made to be followed, and there were consequences when they were not followed. Sometimes, when I tell my kids for the fourth time to do something, that same sternness comes out in my voice. It is not intentional; it is in my being. A part of my subconscious knows how to make a child do something firmly, and it kind of pops out when I feel a bit frustrated. I am sure the parents reading this will know what I am talking about.
One of my children looked at me the other day and said, ‘Mummy, you sound scary’. Here, I have a choice. I could deny that my tone had gone into scary land. I could let the shame tell me that I am a terrible mother, a bad person and hide it from them and me. This might sound like “Well, no wonder, I have already asked you four times, just do it”. This is a form of gaslighting. I am denying their experience and preventing myself from having the opportunity to work on my own healing.
The other option is to acknowledge and explain. I could consider what was said and say to them, “Ah, that WAS a bit stern. That came out a bit stronger than I wanted it to. Let me repeat it in the right tone.” I then repeat what I said in a different tone and explain why I need them to do what I have been asking of them, maybe stopping what I am doing to pay them more attention.
When I do this, I break the cycle of strict parenting. When my children grow up, they will have a softer inner voice. I don’t expect to get it right all the time. I am a work in progress, perfectly imperfect. As their mother, I have the opportunity to model to them what it looks and feels like to get it wrong, how to own my mistakes and make it right. It could be the most significant gift I give them.
Does any of this resonate with you? Would love to hear your thoughts.
If you resonate with breaking these kinds of cycles for yourself and your children, you might be interested in my course, ‘Relationship Cycle Breaker’.