Growing Yourself as a Parent

July 4th, 2011 | Posted in Mind+Body+Soul, Parent by

“Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome

for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”

—Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little

Imagine a baby shower where the guests bring a special kind
of gift for the new parents.
Not baby clothes. Not strollers or cribs. Not even a single
book on child-rearing.

The gifts for the new parents? Self-awareness, self-love and
self-growth as a person, as well as a parent.

The best parenting requires that we not only work to nurture
and care for our children but that we nurture and care for ourselves.

Parenting is one of the—if not the—most challenging jobs on
the planet. There is the awesome responsibility of raising and guiding another
human being, of course. But it’s the daily interactions between children and
parents that can require almost super-human amounts of flexibility, patience
and awareness. All the experts and all the books aren’t there when it’s your
toddler who won’t nap, your child who stole a valued toy from his best friend,
your depressed teen who is desperately searching for answers, your adult child
who can’t hold down a job, or the dreaded unplanned pregnancy of your teen.

Successful—even joyful—parenting is about listening to
ourselves as well as listening to our children. It’s a hands-off approach that
brings the focus back to what we are feeling and experiencing, so that we don’t
unthinkingly rain anger and fear down upon our children. Being aware of
ourselves helps us develop a strong “inner authority” or an intuitive sense of
knowing what is best for us and our children in any moment. (And accepting that
sometimes we really don’t know yet!)
“We guide (our children) not because they have basically
shabby motives, but because they lack the one strength most of us have:
awareness of the world,” write authors Hugh and Gayle Prather in their book, Spiritual Parenting: A Guide to
Understanding and Nurturing the Heart in Your Child.

Their book calls parenting a spiritual path that helps us
grow as people while we are helping our children grow into adults. Our children
challenge us and if we can truly listen, we can grow.

One of the first challenges is to understand that old
patterns—often formed in our own childhoods—can often rule our behavior as
parents right now. For example, if our own parents tried to fix everything that
went wrong, we may try to do the same with our children. But our children may
need us just to listen to their fears and not jump in with our own fears and
try to “fix” it all.
In the process, we allow our kids to make mistakes, and that
means we can, too. And if we can forgive our kids and accept them in all their
flawed glory, it can’t be too big a jump to do this for ourselves.

As author Joyce Maynard writes, “It’s not only children who
grow. Parents do, too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with
their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my
children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it myself.”

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire


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One Response to “Growing Yourself as a Parent”

  1. I really appreciate your growing yourself as a parent post. Sometimes I find when things are not going well, it is me that needs to do the changing. I have changed so much since having children, and I hope I will never lose the desire to grow and adapt for the sake of raising well adjusted and compassionate children.

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