When you are a mother, your goal is to raise a child who has solid self-esteem, is kind and considerate, plays well with other children, can accept constructive criticism and is appropriately mature for his or her age.
Is this your child?
If so, congratulations, you have done an amazing job. Being a good mother, or really just a good enough mother, is a staggering challenge. Having a spouse who is very involved takes some of the pressure off, but at the end of the day, mothers are champions; they are the core of every society and the hub of every family.
But, not all of us had mothers who were even good enough. I certainly didn't, and about 95% of the women have I spoken to over the years have rocky relationships with their mothers. Consequentially, we lack trust, have difficulty with boundaries and struggle to keep healthy relationships. This damage lasts into adulthood, and can impact our finances, weight and even our marriages.
For the seven years I have been a relationship coach, I have heard many stories from my clients of mothers who put their own needs ahead of their child's. In my case, my mother suffered a borderline personality disorder.
When a mother exhibits this dysfunctional and narcissistic behavior, she is preventing her child from believing they deserve love unconditionally and not just for what they are able to provide to their mother.
But just because we had mothers like that, doesn't mean we have to raise our children in that way also. We can break the cycle if we use these five parenting tools to build self-awareness and self-respect in our children.
- Respect your children. This starts when they are in the womb. Make sure you maintain a healthy lifestyle, in which you eat only organic fruits and vegetables, with no sugar or processed foods. Avoid coming into contact with toxic chemicals, such as oil at the gas station. After your children are born, keep the same routine, especially if you are nursing. Keep the baby close to you at all times, which keeps them calm because they are accustomed to your rhythm, your smell and your warmth. Of course, babies demand a lot of attention. They are constantly hungry, tired, wet or cranky. Your body is tuned in to your baby's needs instinctively. But be prepared for those demands to get even more complicated as the baby grows. For single mothers, focusing so much on the baby can be particularly challenging because there is no one else around to give her support. However, it is important to put your baby's needs ahead of your own at all times in order to allow your child to grow and develop in a healthy way.
- Be attentive and present. As children grow, giving them your attention when they complain is critical. Being present in that moment with them matters more than anything else. When I start with a new client who had a troubled childhood, I always ask how anger was handled in their household when they were growing up. Almost all of the time, their anger was not welcomed. They were sent to their room, told they should not be angry or dismissed in one form or another. This is not a good way to parent. If you do it often enough, the message the child gets is: "no one hears me, my feelings and needs are not important to anyone." That will make them feel unworthy later in life.
- Be worthy of their imitation. As a mother, you are your child's idol, and he or she will imitate everything that you do and say (for better or worse). If you demand that your child respect you, you better make sure that you demonstrate respect in your every day life. Because if you are a hypocrite, not only will your child not respect you, but their sense of trust will be damaged. They are observing, watching, learning and copying you. Being a good enough mother is a daunting task and not every woman is up to it.
- Be kind and gentle. Again, your children will copy you. If you curse at bad drivers, are unnecessarily critical of others and take a nasty tone with waiters or cab drivers, your children will definitely notice. How you treat others speaks volumes to your children. Of course, you also need to be conscious of the way you treat your children at home. If you have a daughter, for instance, make sure you don't make any comments about her weight (or even just complain about your own weight). Girls are very sensitive, and she may get the message that her body is not good enough. Bullies come out of homes where there is not an environment of respect and safety; they are living in fear and abuse.
- Be Considerate. Of course, others have needs too, and sometimes those needs conflict with our own. Teach your children to master that conflict and give them the coping tools they need to thrive with the confidence that you have instilled in them. Your children will be competent and clear thinking, and won't make self-sabotaging decisions.
As Mother's Day weekend approaches, let's celebrate and encourage women to raise girls and boys who are kind, respectful and confident.
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