We think that parenting is about our kids - something we do to them to make them kind, smart, "good," responsible, etc.
But truly, parenting is something we have with our children. It's a relationship, and that relationship starts with the one we have with ourselves.
The way we parent our children is directly related to our childhood. The things that trigger us now tend to be the same things denied or suppressed in us as children. It can make parenting our kids incredibly challenging. Their development often charges our emotions, and we yell, lecture, threaten, or do things that we later cry about in the bathroom. (Anyone else?)
Re-Parenting Our Triggers
Take a moment to think of a current-day trigger with your child - a moment when your emotional response was disproportionate to what was actually happening. As you reflect, ask yourself these questions and write down your answers.
What was I feeling in my body when this happened?
What thoughts were running through my mind?
What goal did I have for my child at that moment?
If I canceled that goal for my child, what new goal could I set for myself that involves my thoughts, words, feelings, and actions?
When we understand the answers to these questions, 1) we create a gap between what our children do and who they are, 2) we take responsibility for our own responses, and 3) we move outside control-based parenting and into connection-based parenting.
Re-Parenting Our Inner Child
If you desire to take it a step further, you can move beyond the surface of your reactivity and into a deeper awareness of your inner child. You may choose to explore these questions, writing down your answers.
What did I learn in those earliest years of wiring my body about whatever it is that my child is doing and that I am reacting to?
What did I have to deny, suppress, or minimize in myself to fit into my family system as a child?
What did I need as a child?
How could I meet those needs now as an adult?
I know it seems like a lot of work for us when most of the time, we are focused on tools for our kids, but it starts here.
How we know ourselves directly affects how we see and relate to our children.
Re-parenting With Time-Ins
A tangible way to bring all of this re-parenting into your home to include your children is to take a family Time-In. Often, it's thought that Time-Ins are for our kids, which is true, but that is only part of the puzzle.
What were you feeling?
Where did you feel that feeling in your body?
How big was it?
Why does that feeling make sense in your body? (What did you want and need?)
Just as you would for your kids, take a Time-In during your heightened, unpleasant emotions too. This is a form of re-parenting. This is how we model emotional regulation and invite healing inward.
In short, Time-Ins are for all the children in the home, including the child that lives deep inside us.