Understanding yourself as a parent

We all want to be the best parent we can be.

We all start out as parents with many ideas about parenting. We have hopes and dreams for our children and ourselves as parents. Sometimes, however, things get in the way of us being the parent we want to be. Sometimes we can feel stuck in patterns of responding to our children that we don’t like, without really understanding why it happens.

Just like our children, our life experiences shape who we are. We draw our ideas about children and parenting from many sources around us, including our own parents, family, friends, child care, schools, professionals and the media.

As parents, we often repeat what we know best. Most often what we know best is drawn from our own experiences. Our experiences of growing up in our family of origin are an important basis for the values and beliefs we hold about children, parenting and families.

Doing things against our better judgement……

All parents have times when they find themselves doing or saying things to their children that are against their better judgement.

“I don’t want to yell at my children, they just push my buttons and I get so mad I can’t seem to stop myself.”

At these times parents often feel they are letting themselves, their partner and their children down.

Emotions can take over and get the best of parents at times. Understanding where these feelings are coming from allows us to change how we respond to our children.

Awareness of yourself and your child

Children challenge us to remain flexible and in control of our feelings and behaviour. We can lose our ability to respond flexibly if we are stressed, tired, angry or frustrated.

Our own needs or feelings may result in a “knee-jerk” reaction rather than one that matches the situation. This can often result in parent and child feeling disconnected from each other, each left feeling angry, hurt or misunderstood.

As parents, we need to be aware of our triggers or what ‘pushes our buttons’. Often our child’s emotions or behaviour can trigger emotions and behaviour in ourselves that are not relevant or helpful to the situation in which you and your child find yourselves. We need to try to separate our own needs and feelings out from the situation with the child in order to respond appropriately.

Through self-reflection we can become more aware of why we think, feel and behave the way we do. Through self reflection and self-awareness we can be flexible and adaptive as parents.

Where do your ideas about parenting come from?

Where do your expectations about children come from?

In what way and to what extent does your own childhood experience influence how you parent today?

What do I like about my parenting?

What would I like to change about my parenting?

What does my child need from me as a parent that is different to what I needed from my parents?

What do I think I will need to change in my parenting approach as my child grows up?