Sunday, July 7, 2013

Parenting My Reflection

 As much as I miss my kids being little, I will be honest, I am enjoying being on this side of parenthood.  It's not because I don't cherish and long for recapturing so many of the moments and memories that the younger years brought.  It's not that I was anxious to have my kids grown and independent.  It's not that I looked at parenting as a chore or a burden. It is  because of what parenting taught me about my children, and about me.

Of all of the parenting moments, the challenges taught me the most.

No one ever said parenting was easy. . Whether you are a first time parent or a parent of many children, there are things that challenge us as parents. The tantrums, the attitudes, the seemingly illogical objections to our "suggestions", the quirks and quandary inducing situations often leave us frustrated, confused, angry. The challenges also often leave us feeling like we are failing at parenting.

You should note that I didn't say our children challenge us as parents. There is a very good and important reason for that. It was something I realized when one my children was about 8 years old - and I was tired, confused, frustrated, and feeling like I was failing as a parent. I couldn't figure out what made her tick, what caused the friction, and why she wouldn't "be" the way I thought she should be. As I was standing in the middle of the kitchen trying to (ahem) manage one of her attitudes, it was as if God placed a full length mirror directly in front of me.  I had the immediate and very clear realization that I was parenting my reflection.  That was not easy.

As I stood there, I was humbled at seeing what I perceived as challenges about her transform into the realization that they were challenges in me. To clarify, it was not in actions or reaction - those manifestations in us were very different. The challenges were in what caused and the feelings in the actions and reactions.  The challenge was more pointedly in what cause ME to act or react to things. It was about the things that make me, me; and her... her.

When she would have a rough time with arguing and attitude as we were heading out the door for a last minute plan, I was parenting my own resistance to change.  As she would be frustrated to the point of tearing up a homework assignment that she didn't think was going well, I was parenting my own need for perfection.  When she would fall apart if her sisters interfered in her space, I was parenting my own need for some control over my personal bubble.  As she got worked up, wound up, and wired up when we were out and about, I was parenting my own need for some down time to recharge.  The challenges I saw in her were really the personality traits that I had, that she shared with me.  Eye opening.

This realization was key in helping me to parent her.  It allowed me to remove myself as part of the problem, and become part of the solution.  When I would react to her reaction, the way I was reacting, it became personality traits squared. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.  But when I identified in me what was causing me to react, I could identify (for the most part) what she was reacting to.  Knowing how I successfully manage my own personality traits gave me more tools to help her manage her. It allowed me to see from her perspective and become a proactive part of the solution, instead of part of the problem. 

Was it easy or did it take any less effort? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But, at the end of the effort and work, there was more peace, often resolution, and better understanding of her, and of me. It allowed me to foster and help guide those challenging things - that in reality were personality strengths, both in her AND in myself.  This may be a whole different post at some point, but control can be guided to responsibility, leadership, accountability; perfection can be guided to effort, persistence, passion; need for down time can be guided to self reflection, comfort in independence, and appreciation and understanding of boundaries - each challenge to us, is rooted in a positive personality trait.

The next time you are facing a parenting challenge, step back for a moment and imagine a mirror in front of you.  Look at your reflection and recognize if that challenge is a bigger challenge because of who you are and how you react.  When your children are young, they are not the challenge and never the enemy.  You are the grown up and you are solely responsible for how you act and react.  Parent reflectively and at the very least, you will have more parenting tools, and a better understanding of your child and of yourself and.


  1. Parenting never stops. It merely takes on different forms as our children grow older.

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