Anxious Parenting: Are You Guilty Of It?

Anxious Parenting: Are You Guilty Of It? [EXPERT]
Family, Self

Does your child's behavior, the choices he or she makes, and fears about how he will turn out weigh you down, making you feel like it's all somehow a reflection on you?

When our kids don't act in ways we think they should, it's natural to feel anxious and responsible; we're only human. But, when we do this, we stop seeing the boundary between where we end and where our child begins. We become fused with them.

The more we parent them out of anxiety, the more we feel responsible for the choices they make, which leads to that panicked, out-of-control feeling and knee-jerk parenting. In effect, your parenting becomes about needing your child to behave so you can feel okay. This causes parents to hover, nag and get in their kid's box.

When your well-being lies in your child's hands, the more invested you'll become in him or her, and the more anxious you'll feel about his every move. 12 Dating Rules For Single Parents

The behavior of difficult, acting-out kids makes us all the more anxious. You're probably saying, "Can I be calm when my child is swearing at me, getting in trouble at school or constantly starting fights with siblings?" Of course these behaviors make us incredibly frustrated and overwhelmed, leaving us dangling at the end of our ropes, held on by a thread. But, believe it or not, there is a way to handle even acting-out behavior calmly. I know, because I help parents do it every day.

Remember, if you parent from an anxious place, you will have more anxious kids. Anxiety is contagious, but conversely, so is calm. You have to find a way to stay in control of yourself, even when your child is out of control and defiant. Parenting calmly will help your child calm down and will lead you to make better decisions on how to respond to these acting out behaviors and not give your kids anything to react to.

I want to make an important distinction here: What I don't mean by calm is that you should be stiff and robot-like, or afraid to tell your kids what you think and what you believe. Parents can get so caught up in doing it right that they end up hiding their real selves. What our children need is genuine, honest engagement. They need us to be separate people with our own thoughts that we communicate to them. Love Starts Within

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Here's an example of what I mean. Let's say your child is refusing to do her homework. Look at the difference between these two statements that you might make: "What's wrong with you? You're driving me crazy! You're going to end up like your uncle!" versus "What's going on with you? Your choices here concern me because I'm afraid you're going to hurt yourself in the long run."

The first statement comes from an anxious place; it puts blame, criticism and your own anxiety on your child, and tells her that you're ashamed of her, and that you need her to take away that shame and anxiety. The second statement is thoughtful while also showing your true feelings. Expressing a concern like that will not only get your child's attention, it will also show her that you care deeply.

If you are emotionally separate enough, your child will usually understand that it's an expression of your genuine love and concern for her. That's where the real connection happens. Kids want and need us to be separate enough from them so that they can feel deeply connected to us, otherwise there is no us to connect to. 7 Educational Games You Can Play With Your Kids

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Another benefit of calm parenting is that if you are separate enough from your child, you can be honest and discuss the realities of what she can handle, talk about what the real world is like, and then state your real concerns. If I'm saying "Your choices concern me" because I'm neurotic, fearful and I won't let my child out of my sight, then it's not coming from a separate place. But, if you are calm and separate, you can be truthful, because it's coming from your authentic parent self, one that's not fused together with your child.

I think the best way to explain anxious versus calm parenting is asking yourself these two important questions when an important decision comes up: (1) Is what I'm doing in my child's best interest, or is it to help me feel calm? and (2) Am I seeing the situation factually and objectively, or am I seeing it from my fear and worries?

Believe me, I know this is not easy to figure out all the time! The good news is that once you're responding from an emotionally separate place, and your child knows it and feels it, they'll be less likely to be drawn into your power struggles, and you'll be able to parent more calmly. What does it take to be able to do this? Here are four important steps you can take to begin shedding anxiety and start parenting more calmly starting now...

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This article was originally published at Empowering Parents. Reprinted with permission from the author.