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Parenting isn’t just about guiding your kids through life’s ups and downs; it’s also about the journey inward that we, as parents, take—delving into our own pasts to unlock a brighter future for our little ones. Ever wonder why you react the way you do to your child’s tantrum or resistance? Leading experts like Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell suggest that the answers often lie in our own childhood experiences. Let’s explore how self-awareness can transform your parenting style, making each challenge a bit easier to navigate.

Reflecting on Your Own Childhood

Think back to how you were parented. What emotions does this bring up? Research tells us that our earliest experiences form the blueprint of how we parent today. Perhaps you were told “children are seen and not heard,” or maybe you had incredibly supportive parents who nurtured your every endeavor. These experiences shape our automatic responses—yes, even those moments when you wonder, “Why did I just say that?” By reflecting on your own childhood, you can choose which patterns to continue and which to change.


Understanding Your Triggers

Have you ever overreacted to a small mishap or found yourself unusually upset by your child’s behavior? Chances are, these reactions are deeply rooted in your own past. Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell, in their work on mindful parenting, emphasize the importance of recognizing these triggers. Awareness allows you to pause before reacting, ensuring your responses are not clouded by unresolved feelings from your own past.

Empathy Begins with You

To truly connect with and guide your child, you first need to be in tune with your own emotions. When you understand your feelings, you can better empathize with your child’s. This doesn’t just apply to negative emotions; acknowledging your joy and excitement can also enhance your relationship with your child.

Creating a Calmer Response

Once you’re aware of your triggers and the origins of your emotional responses, you can start to craft more thoughtful reactions. This doesn’t mean you won’t get upset or frustrated—those are normal parts of parenting—but you’ll find yourself managing these situations with a calmer, more understanding demeanor. Such responses not only soothe your child but also model emotional regulation, teaching them to handle their emotions constructively.


Building a Stronger Bond

Every piece of self-awareness adds another layer to the deep, complex bond between you and your child. When you react from a place of understanding and thoughtfulness, your child learns trust and safety. This isn’t just about preventing challenging behaviors; it’s about fostering an environment where your child feels free to express themselves and grow.

My hope as a Behavior Analyst is that we are not relying on systems and strategies that promote compliance and convenience at the expense of building and fostering true connection between the parent and child. Parenting is as much about self-development as it is about child development.

As we investigate behaviors, we get to know the child better, we learn about what this child needs and what skills they’re missing, we uncover a parent’s triggers and areas for growth, and we move from a place of “What’s wrong with my child and can you fix them?” to “What is my child struggling with and what’s my role in helping them?” And hopefully also, “What’s coming up for ME about this situation?"

Practical Steps to Self-Discovery

  1. Reflect Regularly: Take time each day or week to reflect on your interactions with your child. What felt good? What would you like to change?
  2. Journal Your Feelings: Writing down your emotions can help you process and understand them better.
  3. Seek Feedback: Sometimes, discussing your parenting with a trusted friend or partner can open your eyes to new perspectives.
  4. Read and Learn: Here are a few books you may be interested in…

By turning the mirror inward and understanding our own emotional landscapes, we don’t just better ourselves; we offer our children the best version of us. Remember: the goal isn’t to become a perfect parent but a more aware and attuned one, ready to raise children who not only survive but thrive.

As a final note, although developing self-awareness is a powerful step towards becoming a more effective parent, it is not the sole solution to all parenting challenges. Therefore, I encourage you to blend these strategies with other supportive resources and, if needed, seek professional advice.

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