Even if you had a terrible childhood, you can still be a great mom!
When you are a mother, your goal is to raise a child with solid self-esteem—a child who is kind, 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 an involved spouse takes some of the pressure off. Reading a ton of parenting advice helps, too. 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 even hit the "good enough" benchmark.
I certainly didn't, and about 95% of the women I've spoken to over the years share stories of rather rocky relationships with their mothers.
As a result ... we grow up lacking the ability to trust easily. We find it difficult to uphold our boundaries and we struggle to maintain healthy relationships. This early damage lasts into adulthood, and can impact our finances, weight and even our marriages.
Over my years as a relationship coach, I've 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 prevents her child from believing they deserve love unconditionally and not just for what they are able to provide (via validation and attention) to their mother.
But just because we had mothers like that, doesn't mean we're doomed 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, eating organic fruits and vegetables and significantly limiting sugar or processed foods. After your children are born, keep the same routine and keep the baby close to you at all times. Your rhythm, scent and warmth body calm little ones tremendously.
Of course, babies demand a lot of attention. They are constantly hungry, tired, wet or cranky. (They're pretty much the same as teenagers, too.) Your body atunes to your children's needs instinctively. But be prepared for those demands to get even more complicated as they grow.
For single mothers, focusing so much on the children is particularly challenging because there is no one else around to give you support. However, it is important to prioritize your children's needs at all times in order for 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 their family handled anger as they were growing up. Almost all of the time, their anger was not welcomed. Their parents sent them to their room and told they shouldn't be angry (their feelings dismissed in one form or another).
This is not a good way to parent. If you do it often enough, the message the child receives is: "no one hears me, my feelings and needs are not important to anyone." That will make them feel unworthy later in life.
- Set the example. 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 respect from your child, you better make sure that you model giving respect in your everyday life. If you're a hypocrite, not only will your child not respect you, but their innate sense of trust suffers.
Our kids are observing, watching, learning and copying us at all times. 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 be conscious of the way you treat your children at home. If you have a daughter, for instance, don't make any comments about her weight (or even complain about your own weight). Girls are very sensitive, and easily pick up the message that their body isn't good enough.
Bullies come out of homes lacking 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.
Help your children master that conflict and give them the coping tools needed to thrive with confidence. Then watch them thrive as competent and clear thinking individuals (who make far fewer self-sabotaging decisions).
Let's celebrate and encourage women to raise girls and boys who are kind, respectful and confident.