3 Phrases to Avoid Using with Your Young Child as a Conscious Parent (And what to say instead)
Parenting does not come with a manual. We may think we are experts at parenting, but the truth of the matter is: We have no idea what we are doing. Ultimately, the dynamic with which we interact with our children reflects the unconscious foundation that was laid down for us by our own parents and experiences. At an unconscious level, many toxic behavioral hand-me-downs make their way inter-generationally.
The first and most important tenet of conscious parenting is understanding the developmental stages of your child and shepherding them through each with observance and respect for all that unfolds. The formative phase of development (0-7 years) is the root that anchors the child to their sense of self and being. During this stage, children grow with a great sense of openness to the outer world. They assimilate everything in their environment without resistance and with ultimate trust. They live in paradisal innocence where good and evil are inextricably interwoven. All the senses are open and the child answers with inner activity expressed in imitation. Through imitation, a child will learn all the useful and negative things which characterize the interaction of human beings. The basis for future morality is also laid down by this imitation. For this reason, what you say, how you say it, and how you manifest your intentions set the foundations for your child’s adult self and his/her relationship with others and the world.
I have chosen 5 phrases that parents commonly use with the best intentions. These phrases, as harmless as they may seem, predispose your child to inner conflict that will lead to low self-esteem, a sense of inferiority, and feelings of shame and guilt:
1.“You make me so angry!”
Many of us have been there. Whether it is the tantrum, the rebellion, the refusal to get ready in time, or simply the rejection of sleep, we have all felt that volcanic magma buildup from the tip of our toes to the crown of our heads! Interestingly, these are the gems of the moment for the parent. It is in these situations that the child is revealing to the parent the deepest, darkest fear that the parent unconsciously holds in the recesses of the unconscious mind…a fear of rejection, of not being good enough, of not being worthy of love and respect, a fear of not being “seen and heard”. These are the fears that the parent developed in his/her formative years from similar unconscious phrases that were projected by the trusted caregiver.
“You make me mad” can only be understood by the child (who is in his/her formative years) to mean “I am not loved”, “I will be abandoned”, “my emotions do not matter”. The child will learn to suppress, repress, and deny his/her own needs to please others, in childhood and in adulthood. In a meltdown episode, a conscious parent will observe and ask: “Why is this situation pushing my buttons? What is it that I fear in this moment? What pain am I projecting onto my child?” A meltdown episode is not about the child, but rather about the parent’s relationship with his/her unconscious dynamics.
Antidote phrase: “Your action(s) make me sad/angry/mad because (the action) causes me to (state the experience and the impact it has/will have on you).”
STOP. BE SILENT. REPEAT (if needed).
2.“Go to your room/chair/(place of isolation), and think about your actions.”
Well, you will be happy to know that during the formative stage of development, the child has not yet developed the “thinking” function. Physiologically, the child is not capable of “thinking” the way that a parent does. It is a general law that conscious awareness only exists where resistance is experienced. Whereas an adult can see oneself outside an event and may decide which action to take or direction to go, a child experiences the world through a self-centered lens: I feel, therefore I am. I am denied my feeling, therefore I do not exist! In the latter case, fear and incomprehensible anxiety set in.
Antidote Phrase: Nothing. Say nothing, do nothing. Just be close to your child during his/her moment of meltdown. Observe. Let him/her know that you are there without judgement…just allowing him/her to be. When the dust settles a bit, and the madness quietens, ask if you may give him/her a hug. Acknowledge that you felt he needed to express his sadness/anger (anger is the language of sadness), and that you are sorry he/she is feeling this way. STOP. BE SILENT. REPEAT (if needed). Yes, I hear you. IT IS NOT EASY. But life is such…Switch off from your own defense mechanism at that moment, and from the need to “control” the situation so that you feel you are “worthy”.
3. “Act like/be a big boy/girl.”
Why? Why do parents intentionally wish for their children to be jolted out of a state of creative freedom, magic, and endless possibilities to a state of anxious chaos? Why is adulthood celebrated and revered, when most, if not all adults, dwell in their misery day in and day out? Why would a parent force an unnatural state of being onto a child who was endowed with the wisdom and innate knowledge to unfold in perfect harmony with his/her creation? Why do parents teach their children to attach value to losing the spirit of unconditional being, unrelenting will, uncurbed enthusiasm, fearless curiosity, and boundless imagination? Why do parents teach a child to stop feeling, start obeying, emulate thinking and repress willing? When a parent asks a child to “act big”, “behave like a grown-up”, “celebrate going to the ‘big boys/big girls’ school, the parent is unconsciously asking the child to forsake an essential part of his/her sense of being and predisposing the child to begin the journey of “inferiority” and of “pleasing the other” to be worthy of acceptance and love.
Antidote Phrase: “Oh how I wish I could be a child like you, so that I could play/paint/sing/build/create/hug/etc. all the time! But as we grow older, we learn new things that are also wonderful, such as… One day, you will experience these things too!” “I know you will miss your preschool/kindergarten/daycare …because it is a wonderful place to play, be with friends, draw, create….but I am sure there will be great adventures in the new school too! I cannot wait to hear all about the fun you will have there when you start at the new place. Let us draw a calendar to see how long it will be until then…” (Always make abstract concepts such as time/new transitions/future events/death of a loved one visible to the child).
Let your child be a child. This is a sacred responsibility that we, as parents, are endowed with and a magical unfolding that we are privileged to witness. Use the knowledge that you gain from your child about your own fears, anxieties, insecurities, and fallibilities to work through your own complexes and shadow dynamics. Honor your child, wherever they may be in their state of being. There is much to learn from them.
If this material resonates with you and you would like to delve deeper into conscious parenting practices, you may wish to join one of my Conscious Parenting, Conscious Childhood workshop series, and/or schedule a private counseling session. Workshop events are posted on my website (http://rosemaryandtea.com). Private sessions can be scheduled by email at email@example.com