The theme of my concerns over recent weeks/months/years, has circled my role as a Mum. I have this tremendous fear that my insecure reactions may have already damaged my children’s sense of self worth. How it is especially hard trying to raise them to be healthy, happy and secure, while I am still trying to get myself there. I get angry at myself for falling short, giving them less than they deserve. Tears well up as I confess this, it is extremely difficult to share, so please bear with me. I will try to allow my vulnerability and shame to create something worthwhile here…
I lean heavily into my faith, repeating the mantra, “Don’t Stress, Do your Best, God will take care of the Rest and You’ll be Blessed”. I trust in this, yet I admit my trust wavers, especially when it comes to me doing my best, am I really? While He develops my faith, I pursue healing… I must for their sake and my own.
My children are older now (9 & 16), they are dealing with emotional issues, more than behavioural ones. They are extremely well behaved, and try their best to be so. Recently I watched my reactions as a parent to my children even more closely; I saw how often my desire to teach them sounded as if they were ‘less than’. How my attempts to help them understand happiness made them confused and sad. How my reaction to their unhappiness made them self-conscious and withdrawn.
I broke down…
“How is this still happening?” I thought to myself. After over 6 years of therapy and 13 years of developing faith, I still have not figured out how to stop the cycle of damage and self-loathing which has infected its way throughout my family tree.
I wrote and wrote, I poured out my confessions on every scrap of paper I could lay my hand to. I let the tears fall as I held myself accountable for their growing hearts, which need to be nurtured by a Mum that loves in healing ways, not toxic ones. Yet I had no idea why my love was so poisoned.
Then as usual I withdrew again…. into distractions and a couple of glasses of red.
I had a 2.5 hour session with my therapist the other week, and we spent time figuring out the core of my parenting crisis. It was supposed to be the usual hour, but he knew I needed more time and gave it willingly, bless him.
After many tears shed and much rambling, probably mostly incoherent, we came to a few realisations. Firstly, that I have a list of responsibilities in the forefront of my mind. Fighting for the top spot of that list is my desire to make my children happy, along with being an obedient, self aware, child of God, and a supportive, capable and loving wife etc.
We narrowed in on my role as a Mum, to find out what causes me to react in unhealthy ways rather than healthy ones (besides the general thesis that my reactions spring from a platform of shame and insecurity). We needed to discover the more specific catalyst.
Eventually this catalyst revealed itself to be a connection between being happy and being right. I grew up believing being ‘right’ was the be all and end all. I spent so many early years unhappy for being so very far from ‘right’, believing many lies were truth, that somewhere along the way of realising this I have attached unhappiness with being wrong.
As we dug a little deeper we found that whenever I see a need to correct my children’s behaviour or teach them how to deal with something new, my fear of their unhappiness attaches itself to them being human (not perfect) and my panic causes an emotional reaction. This emotional reaction is more powerful than my words aimed to teach, more powerful than my good intentions. My way of defending against the fear is what shows on my face as I react. My anger at myself for believing those early lies is what shines out, and all they must see is an angry, scared Mum. No wonder it doesn’t work out well. 😦
We also figured out that I seem to be missing a piece of the puzzle, the place of stability that helps gauge which situations are worth getting upset about and which ones can be met with a neutral, unemotional response. In my desperate mission to stop my girls ending up like me, I have been allowing my fear to unconsciously correct their emotions and even their opinions. I cant express in words how ashamed I am. Forgive me Father, Forgive me Girls!
And so now that I have become aware of this in more detail, I must learn to give supportive freedom for them to experience their own emotions and opinions in each situation and not link them to being right or wrong, happy or sad, damaged or healed. Just to simply accept them, for all that they are. The Lord will teach them in life what I cannot, I need to change my focus to be less about teaching them how to not be like I was/am, and more on helping them be who they are. Using Affection, Approval and Acceptance to help them believe they are good enough, that they belong and are loved.
My psych has given me some tips to practice, in order to attempt to undo some of these patterns.
- Sitting face-to-face with them wordlessly, non-judgmentally, soothing the internal dialogue inside me, which drives me to teach them to control and avoid imagined catastrophes.
- Sit and listen without responding so much. (Oh my, that is hard for me at anytime)
- Try not to challenge any opinion they have unless 99% sure that it is incorrect.
- Try not to challenge any emotions they have, merely SHARE the experience with them.
- Try not to let their emotions change my emotions reactively. Wait until I can think neutrally before making decisions. This will teach what my words could not, that emotional manipulation is unfair and unhealthy.
- Before I respond to anything, ask myself this question, “Do I feel good enough or defensive?”, and wait until I feel good enough before I respond.
- Use soft eyes and a low pitch when correcting and teaching.
- Be aware of my fearful reactions during meditation, run through these tips from a calm relaxed place and allow the fear to pass by without being the catalyst for reaction.
This list is not going to be easy for me to apply, but I have been trying and had a few successes. I hope that someone else out there can gain something useful from this post. So that other children don’t have to stay in unhealthy cycles. I ask for your prayers, pray that this is finally the breakthrough I have been waiting years for and that God will reach down His hand and help me walk these new strategies out in my life. That His love will flow through to fulfill my girls when my love is tainted with fear. That my inner enemies will not win out, but will end up in the pit far away from my me and my family. In Yeshua’s Mighty Name I pray. Amen!
This is one of the most informative and necessary posts I have ever come across, and is referred to in my recent post Healing the Insecurity. Please check it out! Blessings to you!
“…to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph.1:6)
The emotional soil our roots are planted in has a bearing on our entire lives. God designed that we should receive love, care and protection in the family. As a child is born into a family it is totally defenseless, and dependable on the family that surrounds it. It is during the formative years of its life that it will receive its identity message. A child brought up in a loving atmosphere and home will face future relationships with security and confidence. Our family loved us and valued us; therefore we must be people of worth.
Psychologists confirm this. They tell us there are three parental attitudes that are absolutely necessary for a sense of security and to develop a wholesome personality. These are acceptance, affection and approval…
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I read this excellent post “Rejecting Rejection” recently and it was exactly what I needed to read. I have been working on my insecurities for well over a decade, from when I first began to let God have a hand in my life. It is not an easy thing to overcome, as the linked post explains, there are many facets to insecurity, such as shame, self-loathing, fear, anxiety, control issues; the list goes on. Even after many years of therapy I am still becoming aware of ways that my insecurities either hold me back from fulfilling my potential, or cause reactions that are not positive or healthy.
Lately I have become addicted to the website TED: Ideas worth spreading, and am intent on developing my ability to create, despite my insecurities. The talks shared on this site are one way to help me tackle this issue. Brené Brown has become somewhat of a mentor for me, as her research is some of the most incredibly accurate and insightful collection of perspectives I have ever come across. Due to the some 8 million hits her talks on TED have received, I know I am not the only one who can relate to her specific discoveries about connection, shame, vulnerability, and all the aspects of these things. Especially, how vulnerability is the birth place of creativity and innovation.
The post I have linked to at the beginning, mentions that “Rejected people, reject people” I can testify to the fact that rejected people become defensive people, as a direct result of their insecurities. We become so used to fighting for our right to exist and to be loved & accepted, that we form habits of guarded defensiveness. We are so used to shooting down those who we perceive are attacking us, that those close to us often get shot with friendly fire. I know that this is at the forefront of my issues with my own children and family members, not in obvious conscious or shocking ways, but in subtle, hard to recognise ways. I am getting better with each day that I stay aware, that I repair, that I pursue growth and change.
However, My biggest concern is that the damage may already be done.
What if, through my own defensive reactions of rejection, I have caused my children to also feel rejected? And if so, are they now destined to follow in my footsteps of insecurity and a life filled with shame, fear, anxiety and defensiveness? There has to be a way to break this cycle.
I must accept that this is possible, and if so, God has to be where I send them, I admit to them that I fall short, and so God needs to be their source of security, not me. I am flawed, I am damaged, I can not be all that they need me to be. I have promised them that I will always try to be there for them, even if I am broken. That, even when my reactions make them doubt it, I love them more than they could know. I apologise sincerely, each time I become aware of another possible rejection. I stay in therapy and stay honest, I pursue healing at every opportunity. I pray …a LOT!
The quote above goes on to say “Rejected people, reject people. Healed people, heal people.” So while I can accept that I am not quite there, I am not completely healed yet, I can not hit pause as a mother and hit play again when I am healed. I must keep working on myself and be a parent at the same time, and that is a scary thought for me. I often feel as if I am doing more damage than good. I imagine that thought would be enough to break even the strongest of people, let alone someone battling fear, anxiety and shame.
And then I remember Him…..
I realise that my Heavenly Father has my children in His loving arms, that I can only do my best and His might will cover the rest. That His design has brought me to this place, to who I am right now, and that His design put me in the role of their Mum. Perhaps as a driving force for me to desperately pursue His healing love.
I had a breakthrough in therapy this week, as usual it followed another recent breakdown. I will explain more about that in a future post, but for now, I like the concept of rejecting rejection… Another step on the journey towards healing…. And that is it, isn’t it! One step after the other. The pursuit of healing and destiny.
So often I hear stories and see with my own eyes the damage brought about when parents separate. Children from split families often struggle with insecurity, and a string of psychological conditions. This is a subject extremely close to my heart, as I was estranged from my father from the age of 10 until I was an adult, and I still battle with the internal scars it caused me.
After doing some research I found some shocking statistics effecting children whose parents are no longer together. Not only are the children from split families prone to psychological distress, which lasts well into adulthood. These statistics also showed frightening increased levels in the following areas when compared to children from homes with both parents, these include; lower grades, poverty, poor health, suicidal tendencies, incarceration, teen drug and alcohol abuse, early sexual encounters, and the likelihood of being victims of child abuse and assault. 40% of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers; commonly the case in Australia also. Half of the children in America and Australia will witness the separation or divorce of their parents. A study of children six years after a parental marriage breakup revealed that even after all that time, these children tended to be “lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure”.
It seems that many marriage vows are no longer taken as an actual ‘vow’, it is a promise too easily broken, same goes for people who chose to have children together without considering how the child may be effected if there is no family unit. For example when I learned of my teen pregnancy I knew I would manage on my own just as my Mum had, but I never considered how my child might be affected by who her father was. It seemed irrelevant to me, because I was a child who grew up without a father, and at that time I thought I had turned out ok. (Ha! I can tick off well over half of the points above!)
Due to the rampant popularity of sex before marriage, it has become more common to agree to have a child with someone before we have even decided if we would marry them. Having a child together should be acknowledged as an even stronger commitment than marriage, yet this often fails to be the case. Children from separated families raising their own children are sometimes unable to see the consequences from that separation, as they have not developed the self-awareness to see their true internal stability or instability yet. Therefore the cycle continues and increases throughout society.
So often in our relationships we allow too easily the bumps of life to divide us, we live in a throw away, walk away society which has destructive, devastating consequences to the development of our characters and the spiritual “footprints” we leave behind. Western culture allows us to choose our own life partners, we choose out of emotion, need and desire, and then quickly, easily, we doubt our choice. Perhaps we assume it was the wrong choice because our previous lessons came from one of our bad decisions. Perhaps its because we didn’t apply Godly principles of LOVE to our relationships. Perhaps it is just too hard and we give up in search of something easier, of course we forget that it was not meant to be easy. For children this destroys their ingrained belief in the capability of their parents. The very foundation of a child’s perspective of stability and security comes from the belief that their parents are the most capable people on earth, they look to them for reassurance. When parents fail to work on their relationship and it breaks down, so does the trust of their children in them.
The emotions behind the reasons we chose our life partners are fickle! Once powerful and thought-consuming, eventually will change, develop, or even disappear completely over time. We are humans with much baggage and sin, and we expect our life partners to miraculously fill our empty places and help us carry the baggage weighing us down, and that means they are hoping the same from us also. Love and sexual connections actually allow our baggage and sinful nature to rise to the surface, so that we can face it and deal with it together as a couple. However, the ‘Better or Worse’ promise only seems to apply when we see their ‘better’ side, and we stop loving them when faced with their ‘worst’, too often facing each others sinful baggage causes much heartache and leads to bitterness and separation.
Speaking from personal experience, this is something I spend most of my time in therapy dealing with. The essence of both parents is within a child; therefore any bitterness viewed by a child from one parent toward the other is identified in some way as bitterness towards a part of them. It sends confusing messages into the inner foundation of their self-love and security.
Due to this inner battle, where I turned this bitterness upon myself, I have suffered from an incredible amount of insecurity, unsure of how anyone can truly love me because it took years for me to learn to accept myself, like myself, let alone LOVE myself.
The enemy within knows our inner wounds and is out to destroy the foundation of all of God’s designs, especially the functional family unit.The inner enemy can exaggerate our emotions, pointing to the hurt or painful memories over and over, knowing the action that follows will be a destructive one. We owe it to our children to use our inner angels to war against these emotions, striving to make sure our actions are the result of a selfless, logical decision and not a selfish, emotional one. We need to call on our Heavenly Father, knowing that our obedience to Him allows His promise to protect our children to be fulfilled.
Didn’t we make a secret promise to our children when we became parents? We would do anything to keep them safe. Their inner security is vital when determining the ‘safer’ path they will walk in their lives and it is our duty to steady their feet for their journey ahead.
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In my post Discipline + Trust = Love I promised I would follow on with the story of my adult tantrums and how a changed perspective helped me enjoy many benefits in my relationships.
In my early relationships I was a manipulative, critical, conceited, control freak; unable to identify love at all. I allowed my emotions to control my actions, and used them as excuses to blackmail the people I thought I loved.
I had grown up believing with all my heart that I knew love because I felt it so intensely.
After I learned a bit of Godly self-awareness, I came to realise that what I felt so intensely wasn’t love at all; it was desire, obsession, jealousy, fear, and a lack of self-worth. I had held onto the belief that I deserved ‘the best‘ and should never settle for anything less, which gave me the sky as the limit for my expectations. Let’s just say that was a recipe for disaster!
How many of us grew up believing in movie love? As a child my favourite game was ‘grown-ups’. I would create the perfect imaginary life, perfect job, perfect husband, and perfect baby. I could have it all my own way and be completely happy. Of course reality hit like a brick!
Have you ever made a meal for someone special, rushed to make it extraordinary and watched the clock in anticipation of the perfect evening of dining and romance, only to watch it tick past the arranged time by over an hour? The first ten minutes were about as much as I could take before I began wavering back and too between anger and panic. By the time that special someone got a foot in the door I would be so worked up, I would be in his face demanding an explanation for his complete ignorance to my feelings!.…Am I alone in this?
It would usually go something like this….
“What time do you call this? Where were you? Can’t you read the time? Have your fingers fallen off so you can’t dial a @$#%ing number? Don’t worry about me! NO! I wasn’t just slaving away to make you a nice meal only to have it ruined, was I? I have been sitting here for over an hour, waiting for you, worried something may have happened to you! Obviously you weren’t even thinking of me! Am I wasting my time here? What else can I think except that you simply don’t give a @#$%! I deserve better than THIS! ARGH!”
I can’t believe I thought this reaction would bring about the response I desired from him …“Baby, I am so sorry that you felt that way, I love you so much, I will never do that to you again I promise!” Rush to me, hold me, kiss me and thank me for being so loving…End scene!
I am so grateful that I no longer believe that is love! Why would anyone rush home to that?!
The Bible describes love this way ‘Love is never tired of waiting; love is kind; love has no envy; love has no high opinion of itself, love has no pride; Love’s ways are ever fair, it takes no thought for itself; it is not quickly made angry, it takes no account of evil; It takes no pleasure in wrongdoing, but has joy in what is true; Love has the power of undergoing all things, having faith in all things, hoping all things. (1 Cor 13:4-7 (BBE))
When my Dad first showed me that scripture in context, it was difficult for me to read and almost impossible to believe, but once I began to accept God’s design over my life and submitted to His ways, I saw how far from a loving person I was. The reality of my actions crushed me, it was as if all that I thought I knew was wrong! I cried out to God for the ability to understand love and to change.
Then came my first new perspective, I thought perhaps I should treat the man in my life as I do my friends, friends who I want to show love to, friends who I respect and treat well. A friends love is believed, because they are free to love me or not, rather than expected to. If a friend was late for dinner I would give them grace, so why not him?
I took some time to try and learn to depend on God for His love and fulfillment, and when I began dating my husband, I would do my best to greet him with a smile even when he was late and I prayed away the anger that rose in me, to stop my inner enemies exploding in his face when he didn’t meet my expectations.
A number of years ago someone asked me why I was ok with my husband going out whenever he wants, without getting upset and making him stay home more? His job was in a social environment and there was always something to do with people after work.
My reply to her was an epiphany that I have used as an anchor, to remind me of my true beliefs whenever I become too controlling in my relationship. I replied “I would rather he be home one night a year because he really wants to, than be home every night because I forced him to.” I gave myself low expectations and this helped me cope with any emotionally controlling behaviour. I would rather know that he wants to be with me more than he HAS to! I also began to trust that if God wanted him to be the man for me, then he would be! And if he wasn’t meant to be then I was never going to be able to change God’s reasons for that! I had to let go and let God have his way.
Having less or no expectations changes our perspective. Perspective is everything!
Here’s another little example of how a changed perspective brought me much joy. This recent Valentine’s Day, which we hardly ever celebrate, I wasn’t expecting anything, no gifts, no romantic date, nothing. I woke up to a tickle under my foot from the man I love, I opened my eyes to look into his and heard him say “Happy Valentine’s Day Sweetheart” After so many years together, to still be rubbing our feet together under the sheets was the most wonderful feeling in the world! To hear him call me ‘Sweetheart’, and let me know I was his Valentine was almost too much joy! (I have happy tears in my eyes as I recall it!)
I still have to work hard at being the best version of myself as possible, to try to show love through acceptance and grace, instead of demanding it with blackmail and complaining. I go through good runs and bad, (once a month is especially hard, around pregnancy was particularly hard, after my car accident was downright ridiculous!). However I continue to try, to be self-aware and try to look at things with a Godly perspective. I have noticed that it is much easier to be loving to those around me when I am in close unity with God, and much harder when I drift away from Him.
I praise and thank God every day that He gave me the opportunity to become aware of myself and my unloving actions, and that in His mercy He saw fit to help me make changes to be more genuinely loving. Amen!
If your inner enemies are preventing you from feeling, giving or understanding love, I recommend you too call out to God for a new, loving, perspective. It will bring about a change you never thought possible!
There are times when the circumstances of life get heavy for me and the depression I have fought with rises back up against me. I recognise that my mood is contagious, if I am happy and full of joy so is the rest of my family, and if I am irritable and low it seeps through causing a bad mood to set into the whole house. While I am mostly known to be a person of positive and high spirits, I have a hard time being that way all the time, especially behind closed doors. I feel the pressure of that weight on me and sometimes it breaks me.
I want so much to help others find the methods that helped me through the darkest times of my life. But I still have so much to learn, how can I begin to teach others? I guess once again my disorder is causing me to doubt my calling, and it is pretty much impossible to publish a blog when I am filled with doubt.
I can see so clearly ways to help future generations live a life of faith and learn to let God have His way with our lives. To bring the abundance of peace, joy and love that I see when I have visions of the future, where God is once again given ultimate authority over this place.
I see it, I believe it, but I still struggle every day to live this life as that premium version of myself!
I believe my children deserve a Mum who doesn’t drag down the mood of the house with the heaviness of depression and the instability of anxiety, yet I have to submit to the fact that God knows why He chose me for the job.
My inner enemy is always trying to convince me that my girls deserve a better mother than me. I get so disheartened when I allow the negative poison inside me to overflow out onto them. I know what damage it can do and I want more than anything to protect them from it.
I have had a rough couple of weeks, with health issues and extra emotional pressure. When I get like this I remember all too well how deep I sank into depression the first time I felt this useless. My accident left me damaged and a shell of my former self. I was unable to find any joy or peace, except in my faith. But Faith isn’t as easy to share as you may think. Faith can hold you tight by the ankle as life drags you out over a cliff, on the outside I may look like I am faithless, panicking and freaking out as I stare down into the abyss beneath me. But I manage to stay there until I am once again placed on solid ground, over and over this happens and I guess I must find comfort in knowing that I haven’t been dropped to meet my doom. My faith has held me tight, no matter how far from calm I am.
I hit my lowest point a number of years ago, in my darkest moment I believed that they would actually be better off without me. As I stared at a handful of pills, and kept half an eye on a bottle of vodka, I thought to myself ‘It’s that easy’. I cried out to God to help me! Praise God I snapped out of it! I had to accept that my illness was clouding my clarity of thought. I had to put myself in my girl’s shoes and I realised that they would not understand that I was doing this for them. All they would know was that I left them, and the thought of leaving them alone to struggle through this life without me was even scarier than the damage I thought I was already causing them.
I thank God that He gave me the help to escape the trap my mind was setting for me. I swore that day that I was going to keep on my godly armour, to surround myself with an army of angels and prevent those thoughts creeping back in.
My faith pulled me back over the edge of that cliff and put me back on solid ground, but I had to work hard, I had to keep my eyes on God, and make sure I was honest in my therapy sessions. I kept myself surrounded with people who supported me and had to distance myself from those who may not have realised it but were dragging me down.
During my recent heaviness I shared some of my thoughts with my very faithful, eldest daughter, she said many wise words but mostly she wanted me to see myself through her eyes, that she saw me as a strong, loving and faithful Mum. She also reminded me of the weight of sin Jesus carried, how heavy it was for Him. How He pleaded with God in the Garden of Gethsemane to find another way to save people, to avoid His suffering. Yet He still walked in faith and finished His horrendous job.
So, if God wants me to write, then I am going to keep trying until I finish the job! I will give Him the glory of being my strength when I am weakest.
I may not always be the best version of myself on the outside, but I find comfort in knowing that God knows what is in my heart, He has given me self-awareness and a way to be able to share that awareness with others. I pray for us all that we hold onto our faith even as we stare into the abyss below, knowing that He has got us! For us to grow together through the internal war which the inner enemy is using to try to destroy us, and to find Godly weapons to make us VICTORIOUS!
In the mighty name of your son I pray… AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!
In my previous blog Discipline + Trust = Love I took you through the story of my emotionally manipulative behaviour and how perhaps a lack of discipline and trust contributed to it. I hope it helps others recognise similar behaviour in themselves, and to learn how to access powerful angels to combat this all too common inner enemy. Please read the previous one first, as it sets the foundation for this post.
If you would like to hear more about the emotional trials I faced in my relationships and the success that came from my new perspective have a read of Less Tantrums, More Love. I’d like to keep the focus here to explain more about what God has been trying to help me understand, about how disciplining our children with love helps to build trust and a healthy perspective of how to feel love and be grateful of Godly discipline.
Discipline means, the trait of being well behaved; a branch of knowledge; and training to improve strength or self-control. Trust means, the trait of believing in the honesty and reliability of others; allow without fear; and complete confidence in a person or plan.
Seeing as I am a parent currently learning these lessons myself, I feel my readers may as well be learning this right along with me. God has been showing me that it is our job as parents to seek His advice in deciding what is right for our children and stick to that with all the tenacity and prayer we can muster, even if they don’t like it, even if they panic, and even if they cry! The hope is that this may help them develop strength, self-control, good behaviour and knowledge. If our children learn that they can trust us, they will believe in our honesty and reliability, have complete confidence in us and our guidelines, without fear.
When I first became a parent I was mindful of the problems the lack of discipline in certain areas caused me, I did my best to address this early on, and was indignant if my children battled against me, sometimes I would win and sometimes I would be defeated. However it wasn’t until I developed some faith that I was more able to withstand against their emotional manipulations. I am far from a role model parent, I loose my temper, react badly and still struggle with the effects of my psychological conditions. However, I am willing to try to stick to my convictions and trust that God will cover areas I am unable to! Amen! I always hope to keep improving as a parent so that during times when they may stand against my authority, or when as they grow and begin to decide for themselves, I can adapt with each phase and yet must remember to recognise the enemy’s tricks and pray for the strength to stand strong with Godly principles in mind.
I came to recognise the inner enemy as the force at work that is trying to get parents to crumble under the emotional pressure and allow children to get away with bad behaviour. The only weapon we have against any inner enemy is God’s army of angels we must call upon with faith and the armour which God provides. This article by a fellow blogger explains The Armour of God from the scriptures if you want to read more on this subject.
After many battles of will with my children and seeing the difference the help from my inner angels makes, I am beginning to realise that ‘meaning what you say with love in your heart’ is the most important way of building your child’s trust and gaining their respect. If we offer a punishment for bad behaviour or a disrespectful attitude, and fail to pass it out, why would a child be concerned by our threats and learn to respect us? If we allow our children’s emotions and tantrums to dictate a change in our rules or our decisions, doesn’t that change who’s in authority? Why then, would they trust us to know what is best for them? I believe we need to teach our children to understand that when we insist on what is best for them and what is acceptable behaviour, even if they don’t ‘like’ it, it proves our trustworthy authority over them and therefore our stable, dependable love for them.
I am seeing more and more that Godly discipline is proactive discipline. ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ This is an understanding of what the consequences will be before the child continues with bad behaviour, a warning, then following through with the threatened consequence every time they ignore the warning. I hope my girls grow to trust me to mean what I say, and know that I’m trying to teach them that for all of life’s decisions, there will be consequences. Good or bad. God gives us warnings, that small voice of conscience reminding us of what is dangerous or unacceptable behaviour. We can choose to ignore the warning, but be assured there will be a consequence eventually.
Too often tactics of discipline don’t always work, because a quick sting on the hand may cause tears, and parents do not want to cause their precious baby to cry, as quite frankly the baby cries enough already! It then becomes common to wait to begin disciplining until around 2 years old. By this time the child has already gotten away with unacceptable behaviour without understanding consequences, they have no idea how or why to heed a warning.
Usually the frustration parents feel at having no control or no respect from their children can lead to emotionally reactive discipline, for example yelling, swearing, smacking in anger without warning, unreasonable punishments or irrational threats that may sound scary but will never be carried out. Reactive discipline may actually be the cause why the child does not trust us or respect us! From the minute they try to get their own way, we need to take control and mean what we say with love in our heart.
As we grow older it is much easier for us to accept the ups and downs in life if we have a stable foundation to build on. As a child we may feel angry, scared, sad or confused when we aren’t allowed to get our own way, but if we are disciplined correctly we grow up to learn that our parents loved us, were trustworthy, helped keep us safe, to make stable choices and display appropriate behaviour. Wouldn’t that also help us see that when life gives us warnings and consequences, we can interpret that as God’s unfailing, trustworthy, guidance and love for us, rather than acting like defiant children who throws a tantrum when we don’t get our own way.
“Come Back!” I yelled through the tears streaming down my face as I ran up the street after him. My heart was twisted in turmoil, my head full of confusion and raging emotion. I was a child in an adult’s body and he was my boyfriend. We hadn’t been going out very long, a few months maybe, but once I had allowed him into my life physically and emotionally I began clinging on for dear life, pinning all my feelings on him. If he told me he ‘loved me and couldn’t live without me’, I was over the moon, if he told me to ‘get lost and leave him alone’, I was on the floor in a heap, devastated by his rejection.
This time he was going out with his friends for the night, but I had spent the day looking forward to spending the night with him. I had conjured up in my head a scene straight from a movie, that he would see me, run to me, hold me, tell me how long his day had been without me, yadda yadda yadda. I would have sent these expectations with my will-power out into the universe and I wasn’t going to settle for anything less!
However I would have no choice but to settle for something much less. He had walked through the door earlier that evening, thrown his work bag on the ground, grunted a ‘G’day’ at me and headed for the shower. I slinked up to him, trying to use my features and curves to get his attention, but he had had a long, hard day and wasn’t biting at any of the bait I was casting his way. All I got in return was that he had to get ready because his mates would be here to pick him up soon. Well, I had just practically thrown myself at this guy and had simply and coldly, been brushed off. Feelings began to build up in my chest and spilled over into my heart, they made their way up into my mind trying to grab onto some logic, something I could say to convince him to stay and make me believe his love for me. I gave him everything that came to mind, but what it boiled down to was ‘If you love me, why are you making me feel bad?’ He didn’t buy into any of my arguments, said of course he loved me but was still going out tonight. A car had pulled up out the front, he turned his back and walked away toward his waiting friends. I was pleading with him to stay, demanding he not leave me. Yearning for him to change his mind and do something to take away the pain, the rejection, the loneliness and fear I was drowning in. I banged on the window of the car and told him to “Get out and talk to me!”, yet instead he gave me an angry, confused look and told his friend to drive. So here I was, running after the car, screaming like a toddler throwing a tantrum in the supermarket over a lollipop they had been refused.
I kept on like that with different boyfriends for many years, every now and then my expectations would not be met, I couldn’t understand why and would become irrational. I couldn’t get my head around this one main question, the question that lit my heart on fire with anger, and devastation.
‘How can you say you love me, seeing me in tears, being the only one able to take away my pain and still not do what I want you to?’ … I always concluded ‘Then you can’t possibly love me!’
It wasn’t until much later that it all started to make sense to me, I realised that while I thought I had been a good child, I was also very good at turning on the waterworks at the onset of any event I might like to avoid. Being left with teachers, or babysitters, or eating my dinner, or sleeping in my own bed were certain to evoke tears. Like most parents, my Mum found it was simply too hard to stand up to me and my dramatic, emotional manipulation. She couldn’t bear to see me cry.
Who else remembers a typical kindergarten day? Mum or Dad showing you the toys pretending they were staying to play with you, and once you were distracted they would sneak out to avoid seeing your tears and hearing your screams. You would turn around to find they had simply disappeared, and they stayed gone for a many hours. (That’s a long time for a little child). Perhaps you too became scared that if you let go of someone you love they might not be there when you next looked around. Then Mum began making food that I didn’t fuss about so she wouldn’t have to fight to get me to eat, and eventually let me sleep in her bed every night without dispute. I came to believe that the people who love me don’t let me cry…for long.
As I got older, and through some therapy much later on, I came to understand that I suffered from abandonment fear and a misconception of love. My tantrum throwing was as distressing for me as it was for my loved ones. It wasn’t until many conversations with my Dad, where he helped me see that I was also a victim of my own emotional blackmail. In other words, I was allowing my inner enemy to create unreasonable emotions that overpowered me, and then expecting my loved ones to adjust themselves accordingly. Once I realised I simply couldn’t trust my emotions, and accepted that I was misunderstanding what love is and how loving people treat each other, I began the journey to keep my emotions in check and try acting in a loving way rather than an irrational way. It takes a lot of persistence to change a behaviour and a belief you have had all your life, and I am certain I would have had no success without my faith.
There are many others out there who have some experience with these types of overpowering emotions, and they may not have any similarities in their childhood to mine. I believe it is possible for any form of trauma that rocked the foundation of a child’s perception of trust, and love would still carry some weight to create this inner enemy.
In my next blog Discipline + Trust = Love! Part 2 I will continue with this story, and will detail the efforts I have made to prevent my children from following in my footsteps. I also feel compelled to write about how my attitude towards men changed and how wonderful the results were. You can read that here..