How to Keep Your Emotions Separate from Your Child’s ActionsJul 21, 2022
When it comes to conscious parenting, it’s important to keep your emotions separate from your child’s actions. I know this is definitely easier said than done, and I can attest to this from my own experience. In this blog post, I’ll share some interesting stories and lessons that I have learned in my own conscious parenting journey recently. At first, these experiences left me feeling embarrassed, but they also taught me beautiful lessons. I share this with you because this is a breakthrough for me, so I know it will be a breakthrough for someone else, too.
As we're talking about our emotions in the context of this story I’m about to share about my son Kai and I this past weekend, the main emotion I felt in the moment was embarrassment. I was having this anxiety come up and I had to sit with it.
We were at a family memorial this past weekend at the beach. My son, Kai, is six years old, which is a really interesting age. I feel like I'm being re-initiated into motherhood. I think ages zero to five is a different ball game because children are so moldable and look to you so much more for guidance and support. Then, they hit age six and their inner independence switch turns all the way up.
Kai was hanging out with the other kids in the group and he was getting a little rowdy and sassy. I gave him that “mom look” to ask him to calm down. He shot me back a look in front of the whole group of people that insinuated, “What are you going to do about it?”
At that moment, everybody was watching and looked at me, probably thinking to themselves, “Oh, the battle is on!”
That is the moment that the flood of embarrassment came rushing into me, because I knew I had an audience now, witnessing this exchange. I was embarrassed because these people know what I do for a living, and here I was, having this silent battle with my son. I knew we needed to get it together, so I had to pull him aside and help us BOTH de-escalate our emotions and come back to the core of the issue.
In that moment, I remember feeling the flood of embarrassment. This is something that's happened a few times in my motherhood journey with Kai, because he is such a strong, fierce spirit and has a very stubborn soul. He is 100% comfortable with being his full self. He doesn't care if he has an audience around him because he hasn't been conditioned quite yet.
I felt a flood of embarrassment because I knew everybody was watching me while my child was testing me. When I went home later and thought about it, I asked myself, “What does my embarrassment or my emotions have to do with how I should handle the situation with Kai?” The realization is, they have nothing to do with one another. Most of us will unconsciously parent from that intense emotion of shame, guilt, or embarrassment.
Many of us were spanked or hit with various items growing up, and none of that came from the conscious thoughts of “What's going to be best for my child? This is going to serve them long-term. I've managed my emotions and I've still come to the conclusion that beating them is certainly the key.”
These actions always come from the flood of emotion and rage that is the result of the embarrassment, guilt, or shame. These actions aren’t aligned with the greater parenting vision that we hold for ourselves and our family.
This situation was a beautiful, real-time reminder for me that I GET to put the embarrassment aside when I'm teaching, guiding, and supporting Kai. Then, I can come back to my emotions and feelings and work through the root of why I am embarrassed.
Many of us don’t even ask ourselves why we’re feeling those feelings. However, when we actually dissect why we’re feeling embarrassed, there's a whole other subconscious layer that we get to unpack. If we're going to show up as our best selves for both ourselves and our kids, these are the important questions we have to ask and be willing to untangle.
When we look at why we’re embarrassed in these situations and why we feel shame or guilt when our child is acting up or throwing a temper tantrum, it’s almost always because of the fact that we've been deeply conditioned as kids. We grew up and still live in a society that rewards conformity. It rewards getting in line, acting a certain way, not drawing too much attention to yourself, fitting in, and flying under the radar.
When we have more potent displays of authenticity that tend to go against the grain, a lot of us were conditioned that we will be punished and reprimanded for that. If we had an outburst, cried too loud, got angry, said we didn't like something, didn't feel like giving someone a hug or acknowledging them in the moment, there were negative consequences associated with that behavior. Therefore, we've trained our nervous system to stay safe and not step outside of the lines. Even if it doesn't logically make sense or doesn't feel right for us, our body feels safe when we're conforming and doing what the masses are doing. Consequently, we feel unsafe when we step outside of those boundaries. The thing is, kids don't come with that inner operating system uploaded within them. It's something that we do unconsciously over the years.
When Kai shot me back that look, he knew there might be consequences associated with it, but he didn’t feel the shame or guilt in being his authentic self in that moment. If I project my embarrassment, shame, or guilt onto him, that's what he's going to learn and end up incorporating into how he shows up in the future. That is NOT how we want to steer our children, though.
We want to raise authentic kids and guide them. There are boundaries and things that are safe and unsafe, but where's that line drawn? Sometimes we don't even take a moment to actually sit and think about what the harm is in our child crying hysterically in the store or dropping to the floor and kicking their legs.
It is actually developmentally appropriate for a two or three year old to have an outburst like this. It's our job as parents to help them co-regulate. We need to help them de-escalate so they can feel safe and good in their body again before we have the conversation. Once we’re both calm and ready, that's when we’re actually going to parent.
After this encounter with Kai, the questions that I sat with after I managed my emotions and untangled those knots were questions like, “Kai, what might be the consequences of you being disrespectful, rude, or unkind to your parents around a group of people? One natural consequence may be that other parents may not want you to come over and hang out with their kids. They don't want you to be a negative influence on their children, so you may not get an invitation to a party again. You get to make that choice, but understand that this may be a natural consequence going forward.”
Another question may be, ”Is this going to serve you long-term? You might think it's cool to do in this moment, but I want you to think long-term about the consequences of you being disrespectful and not listening.”
And then thirdly, “How does this serve the family or the collective community? If mom and dad have to spend more time guiding and supporting you, it means that we don't have time to do fun things. If we have to manage where we are going and not going as a family based on where we feel you’re ready to go, this doesn’t serve the whole family.”
These are all types of beneficial and growth-minded conversations we need to have with our kids in order for them to not conform to external forces, but to have them make decisions that are in their best interest from their internal power. We need to encourage them to ask themselves these questions either before they make a decision or take an action or reflect on them after the fact to ask themselves if it was in their best interest and if it served the family or community.
In doing this, we are embodying all that raising the conscious is. This is us becoming more conscious so that we can raise a generation of conscious children for the future.
That was the first story, but the second is a good one too. I have to remind myself that my soul chose this path to raise these kids and do my own inner healing work and inner child repairing myself so that I can do good by them and show them what’s available for them. By soul choosing that, I also manifested and attracted two souls that are going to push my limits in all regards, no matter how beautiful and loving they are.
The second story is about my daughter, Naya. She is 20 months old and as fierce and stubborn as can be. She has physical therapy once a week because she is still not walking. She's very close, but she's not there yet. She has nearly had it with physical therapy. She will walk on her own with one hand held or push something on her own terms. However, she's done being told when she has to do something, such as her exercises.
Recently, she threw a full-blown temper tantrum with her PT. She was simply NOT going to do what was asked of her. The way she rolled her eyes at us solidified this. At the end of our time, the PT said goodbye to Naya as she was sitting in her high chair. Naya looked him straight in the eye and then turned her head as if to say, “You can talk to the back of my head, but you may not speak to me.” She turned back around about 30 seconds later.
We all looked at each other and the PT was laughing as he tried again to say goodbye to her. Again, she rolled her eyes and turned her back to him.
This is something so foreign to me, because I was so programmed to conform to what others wanted of me as a child, that I never would have had the courage or bravery to act like Naya was in this moment. She was teaching me a lesson, at just 20 months old.
After he left, I asked her if that was a kind way to treat our friends. She giggled at me, which showed me she was aware of what I was saying to her.
I had this flare of heat in my body as this was happening. It was slightly funny, but still not appropriate. That was her form of communication since she has limited words at just 20 months. She can say words and a couple of short sentences, but she can't really express herself yet. She couldn’t express that she was not having fun, that she didn’t enjoy it, and that she felt like we pushed her boundaries. Instead her way of communicating was to turn her head.
Again, it'd be easy for us to parent from a place of embarrassment. Some parents might opt to pick their kid up out of the chair and force them to face the person and say goodbye. However, if you did that, you’d have a screaming kid arching their back in your arms as you’re trying to force them to perform. This is called performative behaviors, which is not authentic at all. It’s clear when your child doesn’t mean something, so we have to honor that.
Instead, the conversation should be, “I understand that you didn't like this and it’s challenging for you, but this is what we're trying to do to help you so you can do more fun things and try new activities. So these are the exercises we need to do to help you get there.”
Although Naya is only 20 months, babies and toddlers read our energy so well. Even the simple act of me sitting with her and acknowledging and validating her feelings is huge versus arguing with her.
Managing these interactions with our children is really important. This comes back to separating our emotions, asking ourselves why we feel that emotion, and then examining our emotions.
We must ask ourselves if there is a layer of conditioning that we can shed in order to liberate ourselves from these lower frequency emotions so that we can show up fully for our kids.
We don't ever want to dim our children’s lights. They will be conditioned by us in some ways. That’s unavoidable. They will have work to do to heal their inner child wounds that we unconsciously create. They will have work to do in terms of coming back to their full, authentic selves as we're doing this work real-time.
There are things that we are projecting on them unconsciously that they’ll have to clean up later. However, if we can consciously love and support them as much as we can to help them remain fierce, authentic, and powerful, then that’s what is best for them. Sometimes that means looking at our own responses and reactions and cleaning them up on our end.
It's not always our children that need guidance and support. Most of the time, your child's behavior is a pathway or a mirror for you to heal something else within you. When our children behave a certain way and you get a public reaction, a lot of times, that's an invitation to look at what's unhealed within you that brings up those uneasy feelings and emotions.
Can you stand in the fire with your child? Even if it does feel embarrassing or gives you anxiety, the goal is to work through it together and become more conscious. This is what has changed our lives as a family. Every time we master a level, we graduate to the next together. It might be hard and we may have to get knocked down and get back up several times until we master it. There is no end game to raising the conscious and conscious parenting.
As we keep going through this process, we liberate ourselves and come home to who we truly are. Then, we can pass the keys to our children that unlock certain gates or doors that were unavailable to us or previous generations due to trauma, ancestral trauma, or conditions that confined or limited us.
It is truly like a marathon where we're passing the baton and racing for this full liberation, beauty, and the ability to live a heart centered life. We’re all striving to be who we are authentically and be accepted and loved for it.
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Learn more about separating emotions and actions in parenting in my Youtube video here!