Stop Beating Yourself Up as a Parent

DR JOHN DEMARTINI   -   Updated 3 weeks ago

If you’re comparing your parenting style or children to other styles and children then Dr Demartini explains why it may be wise to stop comparing so you are not judging yourself and your family through comparison.

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DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 3 weeks ago

Like many parents, you may experience a variety of self-perceptions of your parenting skills. Sometimes you may feel proud, other times ashamed. Sometimes you may build yourself up, other times you may beat yourself down or criticize yourself quite harshly. There are many fluctuations, which are very common along the parenting journey.

That being said, it is wise not to exaggerate or minimize yourself as a parent and here’s why.

Anytime you compare yourself to someone else, for example, perceiving that their children and parenting style are “better” than yours, you tend to minimize yourself due to this contrast or comparison. In most instances, you likely don’t see the whole story, including the downsides of their particular parenting style. In doing so, you compare yourself with an incomplete and exaggerated picture and a lopsided perception, and judge yourself unwisely in turn.

What you may not know is that when you compare yourself to others, you tend to distort your view of yourself. If you look up to them and place them on a pedestal, you minimize yourself as a result. If you look down on them and put them in a pit, you exaggerate yourself as a result. Neither of these exaggerations or minimizations of them and minimizations or exaggerations of you is their or your authentic selves.

In certain instances, your high expectations of yourself as a parent may not be the result of a comparison with another parent, but instead with a social ideal. Take bullying, for example. Many schools claim to enforce a zero-tolerance policy, yet nearly everyone I have spoken to has spoken about how they were bullied, bullied someone else, or both. This is a very common theme that is often raised when it comes to parenting, with many parents indicating that they try to protect their children from anything they perceive as bullying. In doing so, they can tend to overprotect their children. Which often results in those children subconsciously attracting a bully into their lives to help redress the balance and help them toughen up and grow.

I’m a firm believer that maximum growth and development occur at the border of support and challenge.

Society, on the other hand, tends to think that the world should instead be one-sided and provide support without challenge, kindness without cruelty, niceness without meanness, and positivity without negativity. This belief in a one-sided world is a fantasy – it is neither achievable nor possible - yet people continue to beat themselves up and judge themselves harshly because they cannot live up to this ideal.

Some parents may also have been aggressively wounded as children, and became in turn addicted to peace, kindness, and support as a result. Then, when faced with challenges and opportunities for growth, they judge these experiences as being negative and something to be avoided at all costs. In some cases, these individuals become parenting experts and try to prevent other children from experiencing what they’re frightened of and were wounded by instead of growing through their wounds and finding how it ultimately assisted, benefited, or served them.

grow-through-wounds

I’d like to offer an alternative perspective that many of the events or experiences you may perceive as being terrible may actually serve you. It’s all about how you perceive what you experience. That’s where you have the ultimate control of your perceptions  of your experiences.

A few years ago, a lady from Washington attended my signature 2-day Breakthrough Experience program that I teach most every week. She spoke about how she had read a book on how to be the perfect mom to her two children, and used that book as the blueprint to raising her children. I jokingly called her Miss Tofu because she was determined that everything in her children’s lives and environment was natural, from foods to clothing to cotton diapers. She explained that she had once been a doctor and had given up her career to be the perfect mom that was outlined in this book, and yet had become deeply unfulfilled with her life as a result.

Her perceived challenges included the fact that her family now lived on one income instead of two, her husband worked longer hours to make ends meet but she wanted him to come home earlier. She felt a growing resentment towards him and was concerned that she had begun taking her anger and lack of fulfillment out on him and her kids.

Her personal story was a wonderful anecdote that points to something I teach as part of the Breakthrough Experience – your unique set of highest values.

Every individual, including you, lives according to a unique hierarchy of values, a set of priorities that range from most to least important in their life.

Think of a ladder, as an example. Your highest values would form the top few rungs, descending to your lower and less important values towards the lower rungs of the ladder. This hierarchy of values is unique to you, with no one else having the exact same hierarchy of values as you. This is part of what makes you unique (and one of the keys to understanding yourself and authenticity).

As I explained to this lady, when you compare your unique set of values to someone else who has a different set of values, and you expect yourself to live according to their higher values, you are likely to beat yourself up. In other words, she had tried to inject the highest values of this author – that raising children “should” be the highest value for mothers, instead of living congruently with her own highest values. As a result, she began feeling overwhelmed, she perceived that she was not living up to expectations, projecting anger onto her husband, and withdrawing from her career, which only compounded her frustration further – frustration that she was taking out on her husband and children.

This revelation made her stop and really look at the result of trying to inject someone else’s higher values into her own life, and create a moral hypocrisy on herself about how she “should be”.

As I said to her, whenever you catch yourself using imperative language such as "I got to," "I have to," "I must," "I should," "I ought to," "I’m supposed to," or "I need to," you're likely injecting the higher values of external authorities (including traditions or conventions) about how you perceive you “should” be. If you do, you’re more likely to beat yourself up as a parent. However, if you take the time to look carefully at your parenting style and technique, you may find instances where the very things you do is exactly what is essential for the child. They may just not match what is considered to be the ideal or norm.

overwhelm-frustration-lower-values

I often use Sir Isaac Newton as a powerful example of someone who would likely be classified as having a challenging childhood in this day and age. His father died 3 months before he was born. His mother, was left to raise him alone. When Isaac was three years old, Hannah remarried a minister named Barnabas Smith, and moved to live with him, leaving young Isaac to be raised by his maternal grandmother, Margery Ayscough.

Hannah returned to Newton's life after the death of her second husband in 1653. By that time, Isaac was already ten years old.

A case could be made that Sir Isaac Newton was abandoned. Some psychologists might even call him a “wounded victim” of his childhood. Yet he went on to become one of the most eminent scientists ever, authoring the Principia, achieving remarkable feats, and eventually being knighted by Queen Anne.

Where does this fantasy of a “perfect parent” come from? There’s no such thing.

Instead of striving for so-called perfection, it is wiser to ask:

  • Do you love and care for your children?
  • Do you intend to do what you can to assist them in fulfilling what's meaningful to them – their own unique set of highest values?

In many instances, you may realize that what you perceive to be ‘good’, ‘caring’ parenting is actually a projection of your past wounds and perceived voids onto them. As such, you may be trying to prevent them from experiences that you, yourself, haven't yet found the benefits of and which you’re still a victim of, instead of empowering yourself by finding out how these experiences actually SERVED you.

It’s one of the reasons why I am inspired to host the Breakthrough Experience almost every weekend, so I can teach people how to clear the baggage that they're carrying around instead of projecting those fears and anxieties onto their children.

Different parenting styles within a family often express a hidden balance between the spouse and other family members.

In my own life, I noticed that my mom and dad had different views. My mom would say something like, "Be careful about this," and tend to be protective, while my dad was more likely to say, "He'll figure it out, and if he gets bruised, he'll learn from it. That's how he learns. You don't sit there and protect somebody from learning their experiences."

I often ask the question, “No matter what happened to you, how did it serve you?” In some cases, I may encourage people to take what they perceive as being challenging and look for its opposite or how it was supportive and beneficial. So, if they perceive someone as being aggressive, how did it or does it serve and benefit them and where was the simultaneous, real or virtual, passive overprotector? Because if you can see them simultaneously and balance your perceptions and the equation, neither one of them will likely affect you. Maximum growth and development occur at the border of support and challenge or any other complementary pair of opposites of perception.

support-challenge

So, if you have a parent who is overprotective, there will be another real or virtual individual who behaves as a bully. If the one sibling is aggressive, you’ll tend to have another sibling or parent who is more passive. You require both in order to maximally grow. You need kind and cruel, nice and mean, positive and negative, support and challenge, and peace and war. Every family tends to comprise all these traits.

It’s wise to beware of idealisms and fantasies about how you're “supposed” to be and “should” be and “ought” to be based on somebody's one-sided ideal, which is usually a result of a wound that they haven't seen the benefits to.

If you overprotect a child and try to keep him or her from ever facing challenges, they’ll tend to become dependent, juvenile-like, and avoiding accountability or a sense of responsibility. I’ve actually seen people who believe this approach to be effective parenting, when it actually results in keeping their child dependent, unable to handle both sides of reality, and not being resilient or adaptable.

It is wiser to raise children who are able to be assertive and understand how to interact with passive and aggressive people and all different types of individuals. The more experiences they have, the more adaptable and resilient they will likely become.

It starts with you

As I mentioned earlier, it’s wise to explore how every experience in your childhood and life to date has served you. If you can teach your children to be resilient and adaptable, It will be to their advantage. By learning to do this - uncovering your wounds and discovering how everything that has happened in your life has served you - you set an example for them to achieve the same.

Regardless of what you've done or not done, you are worthy of love, and so are your children. They are on their own journey, in a different environment and a different generation than you, and face unique challenges. As opposed to trying to prevent them from experiencing challenges, it is wise to lead by example and teach them to be resilient, adaptable, and to prioritize what’s important to them.

To Sum Up

  • Like many parents, you may experience a variety of self-perceptions of your parenting skills. Sometimes you may feel proud, other times ashamed, both these are lopsided perceptions of your actions. In truth no matter what you’ve done or not done you are still worthy of love.
     
  • Anytime you compare yourself to someone else, for example, perceiving that their children and parenting style are ‘greater’ than yours, you tend to minimize yourself and exaggerate them.
     
  • What you may not know is that when you compare yourself to others, you tend to distort your view of yourself as a result.
     
  • Like many people, you may buy into societal ideals and moral hypocrisies that the world should be one-sided and provide support without challenge.
     
  • It is wise not to compare yourself to others or to society’s ideals of what a “perfect parent” looks like. This will help you reduce self-criticism.
     
  • When you compare your unique set of values to someone else who has a different set of values, and you expect yourself to live according to their values, you are probably going to beat yourself up.
     
  • Identify your own highest set of values instead of trying to inject the higher values of others into your life. (You can visit my website to go through the free Value Determination Process.)
     
  • Maximum growth and development occur at the border of support and challenge. If you strive to overprotect your children from anything you perceive as being challenging or “negative” may help to keep them juvenilely dependent and lacking in resilience, independence and adaptability.
     
  • If you have unhealed wounds, explore how those experiences served you. Not only will this help to dissolve emotional baggage, but it will also model this behavior and practice for your children.
     
  • Regardless of what you've done or not done, you are worthy of love, and so are your children.
     

If you’re ready to go inwards and do the work that will clear your blockages, clarify your vision and balance your mind, then you’ve found the perfect place to start at the Breakthrough Experience.

In 2 days you’ll learn how to solve any issue you are facing, transform any emotion and reset the course of your life for greater achievement and fulfillment.

I look forward to seeing you there!


 

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