Not too long ago I did a guided inner-child meditation. During the meditation “the adult you” walks up to the doorsteps of your childhood home where you find yourself as a child sitting on the steps. You take the hand of the “little you” and together you walk inside.
Once inside you are guided to walk around in your childhood home, to take in and observe the environment, what you see, smell, feel; Who is there? What are they doing? What is the atmosphere like?
So I’m doing the meditation, I walk into my childhood home, with my 5 year old self, and once inside I find that there is no one there. Nobody is home, the house feels empty and cold. Not one sound, not one movement, it was totally lifeless and blanc.
When I opened my eyes after the exercise I felt confused.. I mean, surely I could have found my mom in the kitchen making food (I have lots of memories of this from my childhood), I could have heard classical music playing from the record player (another vivid memory) or I could have seen my siblings running around. These are memories I recall but I didn’t seem to step into any of them during the meditation. Why? What did that mean?
I thought about this for few days until a deep realisation came to me. During the meditation, I didn’t step into a “regular” childhood memory, no, I stepped in to my deepest, unhealed childhood wound – loneliness.
See, although I have good memories from my childhood. There is also pain there. And one of the greatest pain is feeling lonely. Not being seen, not being accepted or celebrated for who I truly was, not fitting in. Shame. Feelings of being misunderstood, not being listened to, lots of suppressed emotions, putting up a mask, not feeling supported in the way I truly needed.
My own childhood wounds have always acted as one of the biggest drivers in my conscious, respectful parenting journey. This feeling of wanting to show up differently for my own children. Striving to break painful childhood patterns and through that work hopefully do better in the areas that I felt were lacking when I was growing up.
Wanting to dig deeper into this important topic I decided to ask my lovely community of followers on Instagram the following question:
"What was the most difficult thing about being a child in your family of origin? And what did that pain feel like?"
- “Fear of doing something “bad”, being publicly humiliated for it, no privacy, not being heard”
- “Watching my brothers being beaten by my dad and living in fear of it happening to me”
- “The unpredictable adult reaction to my behaviour. result was fear of being “too much”.
- “Afraid I wouldn’t be loved”
- “Not being allowed to talk/explain things. Being shut down and feeling really frustrated and not valued”
- “The yelling and hitting. Being told not to cry, emotions are bad”
- “Having any sort of feeling outside of being content”
- “The belt”
- “Not being listened to”
- “Feeling my opinion didn’t matter, especially to my mom”
- “The violence, not knowing when my dad was going to loose it.”
- “Not being seen and not having adults respecting my needs.”
- “Having to constantly wait and not get one-on-one attention when you felt like you needed it”
- “Not being able to talk, scared that no one will listen.”
- “Less love and understanding. I felt lonely”
- “Being pushed to grow up too fast, too soon”
- “Feeling controlled and ‘molded’ to be this perfect child! felt frustrated and not heard.”
- “Being controlled and feeling hopeless. no one took the time to explain, show empathy etc…”
- “Making everyone happy, living up to the labels placed on my. felt heavy and pressurised”
- “Always being afraid of getting in trouble. Having to always say sorry, even if not at fault”
- “Being constantly compared to my siblings and other children. Feeling like I was never good enough”
- “Having to live up to my fathers standards and be the ‘perfect child”….
These are only a handful of the replies I got. It was heartbreaking to read through them all but it was also extremely interesting. Why? Well, because once I started to look closer at all these messages I started to notice themes, patterns of pain. The same painful experiences kept coming up again and again and from what I could see there were basically four major themes:
- Living in fear of physical or emotional abuse, punishment and shame
- Not feeling heard, seen or respected
- Emotions dismissed and not allowed
- Feeling micro-managed and controlled. Pressure to live up to other people’s expectations, fear of not being loved as is.
After going over more than 600 replies from parents all over the world. There it was. The 4 things that cause them the greatest pain and suffering growing up.
I felt I could see it all with so much clarity. Not only were the issues so clear but also the solution!
In case you were just thinking to yourself: “OK great, so now I know what NOT to do.. but then what??” then hear me out: There is a solution. Ohhh yes, there absolutely is another way (yes, now I’m getting excited, in case you didn’t pick up on that!)
Listen, we do NOT have to repeat these painful patterns. We do not have to continue the toxic cycle. We do NOT have to pass down the hurt, the wounds, the trauma.
One of the most powerful ways to “break up” with painful patterns from our childhood is to start adopting the principles of respectful parenting. That is because the respectful approach calls for fundamental mindset shifts that are in stark contrast to what many of us grew up with. This way of relating to our children will push us to literally rewire our brain and see our children and our role in their world in a completely new light.
Through this little exercise of mine, it was eye opening to realise how the respectful parenting approach directly works to break and heal every.single.one of the 4 patterns I identified. That is why this approach is the real deal, it’s not a quick fix, it’s not a fad, it’s not some mumbo-jumbo-kumbaya-whatever… No it’s REAL work, providing REAL solutions that solve REAL problems!
Let me try to break this down for you in a more visual way. Below is a list of the 4 themes/issues and next to it is an example of the how the respectful parenting approach works to break that pattern:
Following all of this I feel the need to mention one thing. And that is the fact that no matter how hard we try, we are simply NEVER going to be perfect parents. Our kids will probably have plenty to complain about that we could have done better.
But the truth is that it’s not about being perfect. It’s about becoming AWARE and from there strive to be better. To really learn from our mistakes, constantly educate ourselves, and try and elevate as people and parents.
It’s about apologising sincerely in the meantime when we don’t get it right and pledge to do better next time, modelling in that way what it is to be human and showing our children what self improvement and growth looks like in action.
At the CORE of Respectful Parenting You Will Find Three Things:
- Supporting and celebrating an authentic child.
- Practicing respectful ways of being, communicating and relating to a child which helps grow a healthy relationship where respect goes both ways
- Sending continuous and consistent messages of unconditional love (that’s not the same as us feeling unconditional love towards our children… it’s us showing and meeting our children with unconditional love)
If we only manage to try and practice the three things mentioned above.
We will have incredibly positive impact on our children.
Because no matter how many mistakes we make as parents (spoiler alert, they are going to MANY), it’s these three things that will get us and our relationship with our children through the day to day mistakes, the ups and downs that life is made up of.
These are the three things that truly matter.