There are a lot of babies in my life right now – seven people, including me, have had a baby within the last few months. Our family is on baby number three, but some of these families are on baby number one. This means baby showers and games where you give the new parents advice about being a parent. This is hard because you have so many decisions to make as a parent, and there is some pretty crazy advice out there. Should I use formula or breastfeed? Should I use cloth or disposable diapers? Should I vaccinate my child? Should I spank my child? Should I home school, send my kids to public school, or Christian school? A friend shared this video with me and it couldn’t explain all of these questions any better!
Here is the thing, God made us all different, so each family is going to be different. What works for me may not work for you. The best advice I could give new parents is do what is best for your family. If it works for your family to eat cereal for supper every Tuesday because of soccer practice and there is a lot to pack in, do it! If your family needs to sit in the back of the church because of rowdy kids, do it! If your 18 month old has to sleep with you so that everyone in your household can get some sleep, do it! Do not feel guilty for trying new things and see how they work. You must do things that work for your family. If an unusual approach keeps you from flying apart and helps your sanity, there is no reason to feel guilty. This is the reason there are so many different ideas and approaches in parenting… We all have special family characteristics and in makes our communities rich and colorful.
Let’s face it, being a parent is extremely hard. Every child is different, and they do not come with instructions. I was in the pediatrician’s office with my youngest for her sixth month check up and the doctor said to me, “you are doing a good job”. It was such balm to a tired mamma’s soul. Just hearing the affirmation that I was doing a good job meant so much to me. I realized how important is it is to encourage and build up other parents. This is the perfect quote to describe parenting:
Behind every great kid
is a mom who’s pretty sure
she’s screwing it up.
We are so hard on ourselves. In reality, things really will be okay. You ARE doing a good job. You WON’T fly apart. God has a plan for your beautiful family! Don’t feel like you have to listen to everyone and their advice. Pick what works for your family, enjoy your kiddos, and maybe you can be the person in other’s lives who builds them up.
One of the challenges that we all face as parents, teachers, therapists is trying to look past a child’s behavior to understand why they are doing the things they do. We relate this to looking at an iceberg.
What you see on top of the water are all of the observable behaviors and actions that a child is displaying. Often times we simply try to make changes based on the top of the iceberg and think that we have everything solved, like a child having rage episodes, cutting, or lying or picking on others. But the real issue is what’s going on underneath the behaviors below the surface.
What is going on underneath – below what others can see?
Things beneath the behaviors could have to do with problems at home, fear, guilt, or low self-concept, or simply lack of self-awareness or skills to process a problem. These are some of the examples of things underneath the behaviors. Until you deal with those, the behaviors on the surface will persist or change into other problems. The process of parenting often helps children become more integrated personalities, where children learn to know themselves better, and therefore, become more able to find success.
Do you know someone who is stuck in a way of thinking or behaving and they can’t move on? Here are a few examples:
Someone who can’t stop grieving a loss for years or feels an unsatisfied need for justice
Someone who lives and makes decisions based in fear of what others will think or what “might” happen
Someone who lives in guilt and acts as though they must always make amends for their actions – they say they are sorry a lot.
Someone who says one thing and does the opposite – they are conflicted in their attitudes and beliefs.
Children have icebergs, and adults have them too! Luckily, most adults are more able to work through the underlying issues because their brains are more mature than children.
Today we want to take this idea of trying to understand the underlying parts of our children’s behaviors and think about ourselves. Healthy family members need to do this often!
As we mature, we can take the skills our parents gave us and notice things about ourselves that need to change. You see, we can all be compared to icebergs! There is much more that no one sees that makes us who we are; and these things need to be integrated into our personalities. Have you ever wondered why certain things make you really happy, angry or sad or frustrated? Have you noticed things that push your buttons and cause your emotions to rise to above normal? Have you ever taken the time to think about why this happens and what lies underneath? The process of self-examination is called introspection and it is vital to our personal health and growth.
Integration is next after introspection. Integration is the process of matching our past with our present and solving personal inner conflicts. This isn’t for “those people,” because everyone needs to do this. Most of us do this all the time, even though we never knew what it was called.
Why is introspection important? Because throughout life, we all have circumstances and challenges which require us to look within (introspection) and align our thoughts, behaviors, frustrations and problems (integration) so they all line up and work together. Life events, such as a loss of a loved one, guilt over a divorce, regret for a choice, a moral failure, an unhealthy compulsion or desire, a loved one going through crisis, a shattered dream, a change in your goals, or trying to do something new, such as a new skill or job, are times that we must look within and integrate these challenges into our personhood. We have to match up the new with the old and move forward. Failure to do so will cause us to be “stuck,” limiting our ability to adapt to life and integrate our person or identity.
Do you know someone who cannot move through a life event like those mentioned above? Maybe you have an issue below the surface of your iceberg, that without introspection, you didn’t realize was there?
Introspection and integration are not only important for us personally. Times when we are not integrated are quite apparent to those around us. They may not use these terms, but our turmoil and conflicted behaviors can cause feelings of fear, confusion and anxiety in others.
Everyone has internal conflicts, so don’t panic! We all have thoughts that surprise or maybe even scare us from time to time. We all can be fragile, confused or feel out of sorts when we have challenges in life. A person whose personality is not fully integrated tends to swing wildly back and forth between two or more life approaches. This could be exemplified by someone addicted to sex who also is a dedicated Christian.
Biblical Christianity vs. Sexual Acting Out
These conflicting views need to be integrated and the differences cleared up. This person might either decide to let go of their Biblical values and proceed into sexual acting out, or modify their behaviors.
All of us, at times, find ourselves conflicted; and it is not as unusual as the example just given. Here are some examples: A parent loves their kids and has emotional explosions on their kids from time to time; an adult acts one way when they are with their parents and different when they are with their spouse or children; a person agrees in a meeting with their boss, but they disagree in the copy room; a person who never smokes unless they are drinking; or simply, a person who says one thing and does another. These are less extreme conflicting behaviors, but they still cause others to wonder.
People who are well integrated are comfortable in their own skin and self-confident. They are able to respect themselves and other personalities and beliefs more easily. Integrated personalities are more able to see reality and make the correct effort to make changes. Integrated people can appropriately disagree if needed and accept their weaknesses. An integrated person is consistent in their actions, thoughts and attitudes most of the time.
So, what about your iceberg? Do you know what is down there below the surface? Do you notice inconsistent beliefs or behaviors? This video uses an approach that links your brain and language called neuro-linguistics.
See what you think! The idea of identifying and holding the conflicting views or behaviors closely together and bringing them together is a powerful skill and message. If there are things below your surface that need attention, you can try to do your introspection alone. If that doesn’t work, you can always talk with a friend, your pastor or a skilled therapist. Your happiness could depend on it… and your family will be blessed!
In closing, introspection and integration are lifelong duties. You never get done, but you do get better!
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We all have to admit that when it comes to being a parent we could do better. No matter how hard we try, we always seem to fall short of what we perceive to be the perfect parent. Some actually make being the perfect parent their ultimate goal, while others seem to have a very lackluster attitude. Lets start by saying that, no one is or will ever be the perfect parent, but we all can do better.
Josh Kaufman in his Teds talk shares about how long it takes to get good at something. Research shows it takes about 10,000 hours to become a professional at something, but Kaufman demonstrates with his Ukulele it only takes 20 hours of practice to learn something new. The first step he uses is to learn fast is to break down a skill into small parts. If you practice the small things first you can then improve quickly.
As an athlete trains for a sport in order to do their best, parents need to realize that training and practice will help us to do our best. As I share these five things, identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. While continuing to keep up the strengths, make changes in areas that are weak. Here are five things we can do that will help us be a better parent.
WE NEED TO PRACTICE THESE small parts TO BE GREAT PARENTS
Loving our child is something we most likely don’t need to be told to do. But agape or unconditional love is more than positive words, hugs or gifts we give to them. At times our love could be based upon our child’s behavior, performance and responses to us as parents. For example: If our child responds in a cooperative way with a positive attitude, then we naturally respond with love and praise. Unconditional love is not based upon our child’s behavior or performance. If a child refuses to do what we ask or they do it with an inappropriate attitude, they may need to be disciplined, but with the reassurance that you do it out of love for them. Herb Scribner also points out that unconditional love helps our child’s mental well-being and physical health in his report, Five benefits of showing your child unconditional love.
God says in Proverbs 19:11 “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Realize that our children are not perfect and will never be perfect. They are a work in progress and are learning day by day. They gain experience through trial and error and that means we as the parent need to be patient with them and allow them to fail. As we examine our child’s effort, more than likely, they are doing their best to succeed and to please us. Our response to their failures and short falls with patience will allow them to feel secure and give them the courage to try again. Our children need to learn patience says Abby King. “It’s unrealistic to expect children to be perfectly patient. However, it is important that they have the capacity to be reasonably patient. Our children need to build their tolerance to accept delay.” The Importance of Practicing Patience
This is something we may not think of because being a parent allows us the right to expect respect from our children. They do need to, however, learn to respect other adults; and as a parent, we have the opportunity to teach them how to gain the respect of others and to gain respect for us by showing them respect. The most effective way to teach kids respectful behavior is to model it yourself, says Victoria Kindle Hodson, co-author of the book Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids. Remember that your children deserve respect as much as you do. If you show them and others respect, then your child will mimic that behavior. Dr. Charles Sophy gives four good ways for you to teach your children respect. R. E. S. P. E. C. T.: Four Tips For Teaching Your Child Respect
PRAY WITH AND FOR CHILDREN DAILY
Setting time apart each day for us to pray with and for our children is the best thing we can do as a parent. They will not only learn the value of prayer, but they will hear us taking their requests and needs to God. This, in turn, shows them how much we love and care for them, instilling value into their lives. God, in return, will bless our life and our children’s lives. “How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart.” Psalms 119:2
There are many other things that could be added to this list, but these are areas where many parents are failing. No one will ever become the perfect parent, but we can strive to be better because our children deserve it and God expects it.