Is It Your Need or Your Child’s?
Being mindful involves an open curios accepting of what is, as it exists, without out judgements.
When do our judgments about the “should’s,” or “needs” scream louder than during the parenting journey?
My child needs to…
My children shouldn’t…
My child has to…
My children should…
It is through these rigid expectations that we project so much of our own emotional baggage onto our children. The insidious part is that our baggage cleverly disguises itself as well-meaning intentions of concern and love.
As we may agree, we all have needs. Food, shelter, water, clothes and safety, as described by psychologist Abraham Maslow, are considered our basic needs for survival. Anything after that are psychological needs, which if fulfilled in healthy ways, lead us to a higher state of consciousness or being: self-actualization. This can be exciting!
As a parent and adult your needs are just that, yours. Yours for you to acknowledge, accept and fulfill for yourself. (Of course we employ the willing assistance of our community to help us, but the majority of this work is from the inside out.)
As you help your children grow, meeting their basic needs is a labor of love you endure, while they watch and learn. Being the adult you are and fully capable of meeting your own needs for survival (or logically capable of problem solving and creating solutions for meeting them) your child owes you nothing in terms of meeting your needs: basic or higher needs.
So remember, your needs are for you to meet and at times you welcome the willing assistance of others.
Willing means that others acknowledge, accept and freely choose to help. When children – yes even your own beautiful creations – respond with defiance, rebellion, resistance, anxiety, etc. they have stopped being willing contributors and try to communicate this in any way possible.
Practicing mindfulness in moments of defiance, tantrums, and rebellion is challenging work. For sure! Yet the insight that can come out of moments like this is profound. Let me illustrate this.
A loving, responsible grandmother I work with is now raising 2 of her grandchildren. The oldest is a girl of 9 years. This little girl faces feelings of anxiety consistently and one of her hardest times throughout the day is during the morning, when she is getting dressed for school. As the grandmother and I explore these morning “battles,” as she calls them, the grandmother admits that she chooses the clothes for the girl.
Curiously, I ask her, “Why? Is she physically capable of choosing her own clothes and do you think she wants to?”
The grandmother replies, “It’s just easier if I do it.”
After we acknowledge that it appears to be faster if the grandmother picks out the clothes for the girl, the grandmother does admit that the girl likes to choose her outfits and would wear dresses “everyday” if she was allowed.
What creative solution would you try first, to help ease the anxiety in the mornings?
As we mindfully and curiously go deeper into exploration the grandmother admits that one time her granddaughter wanted to wear a “gown” to school. (This turned out to be a long, summer dress with sleeves and ruffles.) As the grandmother explained to me why she did not let her granddaughter wear the dress –albeit she appeared excited and ready for school – without anxiety – it became clear; the grandmothers own need for approval and her desire to avoid being blamed (esteem needs).
Throughout the continuation of the grandmother sharing her own thoughts, the infamous, anxiety triggering “What if’s,” roared.
“What if kids make fun of her for wearing that?”
“What if she comes home and blames me for letting her wear that?”
As we finished the session, the grandmother realized that her granddaughter appeared excited on the day she walked out, feeling superstar ready, in her dress. She was able to recognize that her own needs were the ones crying out for attention.
The grandmother committed to letting her pick out her clothes (as long as they were weather appropriate, followed the rules of the school and she did so the night before).
I encouraged her, as I will to you:
- Make a list of your own needs.
- Identify how you are meeting them.
- If you are not, identify 1 way YOU can meet each one…and start this week. Little baby steps.
- During the next conflict you encounter with your child, hold this mind shift moment: “Is this my needs or theirs?” Then respond to them.
As you make this list and work towards giving yourself the attention you deserve, remember to be kind with yourself. We are all undergoing a slow and beautiful metamorphosis. You rock for even making it to the end of this article – because we all know that mommy to-do list is long!