How raising our children can improve our health and well-being
I came upon an article recently that really helped me to deal with my unruly child. I had been feeling down lately because power struggles were leaving me very frustrated and not behaving at my best. Needless to say, my son saw my “angry face” more often than not. I remember thinking, “Is this struggle really worth it?”
The article was about being mindful with your emotions. Something that I knew about but had forgot to apply to my interactions with my children. The main aspect of the article is addressing your fears. Fear is what underlies most feelings of anger. If our child is defiant we become angry that they are not respecting our rules or requests.
Why does it make us angry when our child does not comply? Are we afraid that this will reflect on our parenting skills? Or are we worried that our child will lack the skills necessary to survive in this world? It is important to reflect on these thoughts or feelings. When you feel angry stop for a moment and notice what it does to your body. Where do you feel the anger?
It may not be possible to do this reflection in the middle of a conflict but try to reflect on a past conflict; how did you feel and why do you think that you reacted in that way? Underlying the anger is usually a fear and fear pushes us to control the situation. We become fixated on ensuring that the situation results in our wishes and become just as stubborn as our child. When Johnny doesn’t want to cut his long and dirty finger nails you can’t stand the thought of him going out of the house unkempt. What would the neighbours say?
When you reflect on these feelings they may be uncomfortable. Some of these fears may be about how you feel about yourself or your own insecurities. Voice your fears to yourself or to others. Let yourself feel these emotions and admit that there are limitations to the control that you can exert on your children.
By being honest with yourself you are being honest with your child and setting a more positive example. I have noticed that my child conflicts with me on matters that really are just trivial power struggles. I want him to keep his bed made and he wants to make a fort out of the duvet and sheets I painstakingly put back on the bed after the last fort!
Sometimes these power struggles are not trivial; when your child refuses to eat their dinner but wants ice-cream instead. This annoying situation does not require anger but persistence and giving them choices. Sometimes the choice is simply to wait until they are ready to make the right decision on their own. The right choice comes about because you have spent some time explaining why salmon and vegetables are healthier than ice-cream. They “get-it” but may hold out long enough until it looks like it is their choice. They are listening with one ear.
What is the theme in this parenting approach? : Mindfulness. Whenever we are able to stop and think or feel an emotion before it is expressed we are enabling ourselves to live healthier lives. We push and push because we want a particular outcome. Our emotions escalate when those outcomes are not carried out exactly as we wish. Our bodies tense up and we get angry or upset. I can feel the tension in my body long after the fight has ended.
Constantly feeling frustration and anger can take its toll on our health. According to Chinese medicine anger causes energy within our bodies to become stuck or stagnate. Stagnate energy cannot move and circulate. The fluid or blood in our bodies slows down as our breathing becomes shallower and we take in less air. Without air our cells lack oxygen which can increase levels of inflammation or pain. Headaches can start or our back aches. Our digestion slows down and blood pressure rises.
The trick in this healthful parenting approach is to wait and to feel. Is this a battle worth fighting for? If so, is there another approach that may be more useful? Why does it anger me so much?
The other aspect of this parenting approach is respect. We also need to believe in our children. They can sense when we don’t trust them to make the right decision. They will push for ice-cream to test us knowing all along that is not appropriate for dinner.
Mostly, we need to believe in ourselves. Trust that you have set a good example as a parent and as a person and little Johnny will follow suit. What we really should be fearful of is not whether or not little Suzy instantly responds to our demands but that we have taught her to live life without meaning and purpose.
We cannot always be perfect and ever mindful but we can try. Living with thought and purpose and respecting ourselves and others is true peace. True peace is where health originates.
Mikiala Christie BA, R.TCM.P (Registered Acupuncturist & Chinese herbalist)
Unit 216-9764 5th St Sidney, BC (250) 656-2067. www.healthwithin.ca