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Do You Have The Courage to Be a Loving Parent?By Dr. Margaret Paul
September 01, 2014
Do you have the courage to risk loving yourself – even when you might encounter your children's uncaring behavior?
Most of us really don't like it when someone is angry with us. We don't like it when someone goes into resistance to helping us when we need help, instead of caring about us. We don't like it when someone withdraws from us, disconnecting from us and shutting us out. We don't like it when people make demands on us and do not respect our right or need to say no. Many of us will do almost anything to avoid the soul loneliness and heartache we feel when people treat us in angry, resistant, demanding and uncaring ways.
It takes great courage to stay loving to yourself and others when faced with others' angry and closed behavior. It especially takes courage when the people you are dealing with are your own children. Yet, unless you have the courage to come up against your children's anger, resistance and withdrawal, you may give yourself up and not take care of yourself, to avoid their uncaring reactions. The more you deny your own truth and your own needs and feelings, the more your children will disrespect and discount you.
Your children may become a mirror of your own behavior - discounting you when you discount yourself, disrespecting you when you disrespect yourself. The more you give yourself up to avoid your children's unloving behavior toward you, the more you become objectified as the all-giving and loving parent, who doesn't need anything for yourself. When you do this, you are role modeling being a caretaker.
On the other hand, it is also unloving to yourself and your children to expect your children to take responsibility for your wellbeing. It is unloving to demand that your children give themselves up to prove their love for you or to pacify your fears. It is unloving to demand that they be the way you want them to be, rather than who they are. It is unloving to set limits that serve to make you feel safe as a parent, rather than limits that support their health, safety and wellbeing. When you behave in this way, you are role modeling being a taker.
The challenge of good parenting is to find the balance between being there for your children and being there for yourself, as well as the balance between freedom and responsibility - to be, and to role-model, taking personal responsibility for yourself, rather than being a taker or a caretaker.
Your decisions need to be based on what is in the highest good of your children AND yourself. If your child wants something that is not in your highest good to give, then it is not loving to give it. If you want something for or from your children that is not in their highest good, then it is not loving for you to expect it. It is loving to support your children's freedom to choose what they want and to be themselves, as long as it isn't harmful to them and as long as it doesn't mean giving yourself up. Your children may not learn responsible behavior toward others when you discount your own needs and feelings to support what they want. Your own freedom to choose what you want, and to be yourself, should be just as important to you as supporting your children's freedom and desires.
On the other hand, if you always put your needs before your children's, you are behaving in a self-centered, narcissistic way, which limits your children's freedom. You are training your children to be caretakers, to give themselves up for others’ needs and not consider their own.
Once again, the challenge of loving parenting is to role-model behavior that is personally responsible, rather than being a taker or caretaker. This is your best chance for bringing up personally responsible children. However, you need to remember that you cannot do everything "right" as a parent, that your children are on their own path, their own soul's journey. They will make their own choices to be loving or unloving, responsible or irresponsible. You can influence their choices by being loving to yourself and them, but you can't control them. They have free will, just as you do, to choose who they want to be each moment of their lives. All you can do is the very best you can to role model loving, personally responsible behavior - behavior that supports your own and your children's highest good.
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