“As children develop, their brains “mirror” their parent’s brains. In other words, the parent’s own growth and development, or lack of those, impact the child’s brain. As parents become more aware and emotionally healthy, their children reap the rewards and move toward health as well. That means that integrating and cultivating your own brain is one of the most loving and generous gifts you can give your children.” ( The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies To Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, by Dan J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, pp. xii)
One of the upsides and downsides of parenting is that our kids are always watching us. ALWAYS!.
The upside comes when we are modeling healthy behavior that we desire our kids to emulate.
The downside of course comes when we are modeling unhealthy behavior that we do not desire our kids to emulate.
I work with a lot of kids in my therapy practice (usually 12 and up), and inevitably during the week I find myself sitting across from a kid who might be struggling with anxiety…with depression…with anger…with a general inability to remain calm and in control of their body and emotions. And after 18+ years of working with youth and families in ministry and counseling, what I have come to know (and what Bowen family systems theory teaches us), and what you know as well…is that our kids often mirror our own lives and behavior. And though kids have their own issues (like all of us), often the things they struggle with (i.e. anxiety, anger, depression, lack of control of body and emotions) is because we as parents struggle with these things and our kids are picking up on that.
It’s not unusual for parents to bring their kid in to see me who is struggling with anxiety, and after a few minutes with the parents you realize that anxiety is a huge issue they are struggling with.
But as parents, it’s often easier to see the struggles in our kid’s lives, than to take honest assessment of what we are struggling with. And it’s hard for us to question whether or not we are contributing to our kid’s struggles.
My wife and I have recently been discussing how we are often caught during the day saying something like this at the top of our voice to our kids:
“Hayden, stop yelling at your brother!…Hudson stop yelling at your sister!”
“Put those toys away!”
You get the point. How do we expect our kids to remain calm and not yell if Heather and I are yelling.
So as we get into unpacking The Whole-Brain Child approach to parenting over the next 4-6 weeks, it’s worth our time as parents to take stock of our own emotional lives…and as we take stock, ultimately take responsibility.
As a parent, what do you struggle with yourself?
Controlling your body and emotions?
I look forward to this journey with you as we all learn together.