The following article is a confession, a lesson learned, and proof that we are all human beings; we err, we make amends, we overcome, we turn stronger, smarter. Us parents, too.
Today I yelled at Ilay from the top of my lungs. In addition to yelling, I did two more things that I NEVER DO. First, I forced him to apologize; then, I forced him home against his will. Let’s admit it – the accurate word for this is punishment. I punished him for the first time in my life.
So what happened to me?
My son hit a girl, and I couldn’t take it. It triggered something so deep and rooted in me that pausing the automatic reaction and everything else that followed wasn’t an option. I was a train of rage speeding on the rails.
As we were walking home, me speeding ahead of him, him crying somewhere behind me, something started sinking in—a realization. I don’t yell. But I did yell at him three months ago when we were at the pool, and he and a few friends were playing too rough with a girl who wasn’t enjoying it, and they didn’t stop.
The guilt I was feeling for how I reacted was immediately replaced as soon as I connected to my values. Then it was only values that I saw.
Protect the weak. Avoid violence at all costs. Include. Show compassion. Be considerate. Strive for mutuality. Always nurture. Show respect. Take responsibility for the safety of others. Support anyone you can. Strive for equality. Create harmony.
It Was All About ME
Like all actions we take when we’re triggered – this one, too, was all about me. Ilay’s action undermined so many of my needs and went against many of my values, and my feelings followed.
When I was in elementary school, I started fighting for justice. I spoke up for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t speak for themselves; I fought alongside the weak when they were bullied by the strong, I nurtured alliances of connection in a school environment that (like in any other school) was moved by the concepts of power and force. I was 5, 6, 7, 8, and I already knew that my purpose in life was to nurture peace.
When I saw that Ilay hit a girl, when I heard her crying, I immediately felt disconnected from him and deeply connected to my inner child, the 5-6-7-8-year-old me who would prevent and even punish every incident of this sort when I could.
What I’ve Learned
I was young then, operating within the patriarchal culture of power and force, even though I aimed to change it. I am a mother today; I chose to parent differently. I chose to step away from fear, guilt, shame, power, and force strategies because I know they don’t work, nurture understanding, or bring more peace into our world. Instead, I know, they only cause further pain, disconnection, and trauma.
As we were walking back home, I knew that my reaction taught Ilay nothing. I knew that by punishing him for the pain he caused, I brought further pain into the world, and pain is not a teaching tool.
Then, from a place of deep connection to my own needs, from a place understanding MY trigger and my reaction, I could see that his actions are not a reflection of me. I could see that he is a 5.5 years old boy acting as the young human being he is. And I also understood that this would probably happen again unless I took beneficial action.
I sat down on the ground and waited for him to catch up. He stopped walking.
“What are you doing”? I asked.
“Looking at the bats,” he said. I understood he was cooling off. I didn’t say anything further, and I waited for him to come to me. When he did, I asked him to sit down. He sat.
Conversations that Heal Souls
I told him about my childhood—about 5-6-7-8-year-old me. I told him again about all the values I aim to instill in him and his sister by parenting the way I do. I told him that my actions today – yelling, forcing, punishing – go against everything I believe in. I took responsibility for my triggers and feelings, and I apologized to him.
“Mom, she called my friend ‘stupid,'” he said.
“When you hit her, you thought that you were standing up for your friend”?
“And now that you can look back at it, what do you think hitting her taught her”?
“Nothing,” he said.
I wanted to connect him to everyone’s feelings so he’d be able to read these situations in the future better; “did you look at your friend’s face when she called him stupid”?
“How did he feel”?
“He didn’t care much.”
“And you did”?
“I think it’s beautiful that you took on your friend’s possible hurt and decided to take action. I want you to strive to protect your friends. Do you think that your reaction was moderate, aligned with the possible hurt the girl had caused”?
“No, it wasn’t”
“I don’t think so either. What could you have done instead”?
“I could have told her that I don’t appreciate it when people call my friends names.”
“That’s an excellent plan, Ilay. Can you recall the girl’s face after you’ve hit her”?
“Yes, she was crying.”
“And how does that make you feel”?
“Sad. I shouldn’t have done that”
“So what would you like her to know”?
“That I shouldn’t have done that.”
“What you’re feeling right now is called regret.”
“Do you want to tell her how you feel”?
“Yes, I will do that next time I see her.”
I hugged him.
“Are we friends again, Mom?” he asked me, and I told him we never stopped being friends.
This is the conversation I should have had with him, to begin with, instead of the yelling, the forcing of pointless apologies, the punishing that teaches nothing. Instead, these conversations connect people; connect parents and kids. They teach values, needs, and feelings. They connect between actions and results. These conversations are keys to unlocking future relationships, taking responsibility for your actions, and communicating from a place of clarity and connection.
I’m sharing this story with you because I want you to know that I’m not immune to impulsive and instinctual behaviors. I get triggered too. And I snap, too, and I am constantly working on myself.
The Journey to Positive Parenting
We grow alongside our children; we learn, mature, and parent better every day.
Awareness is the heart and soul of positive parenting: when we are aware of ourselves, when we are aware of the reasons behind our words and actions, when we are actively working to be more aware and get to know ourselves even better – we parent better.
In other words, parenting is not even about parenting; it’s about connecting to ourselves and taking action from a place of deep connection. This is exactly what we want to teach our children, right? 🙂
If you’re ready to get to know yourself better so you can start parenting from the heart – join my membership group, where we deconstruct thoughts and beliefs and learn how to connect so that we can take beneficial action – every day.
You can also join my parenting support group on Facebook – I’d love to meet you 🙂