Feb 12, 2020

Parenting as a Mirror

2/12/2020 — cori

As parents we know we carry the awesome responsibility of raising our kids to be good human beings. But how do we do that? How do we define good? There are a lot of opinions on that topic. Some people feel that strict rules and hard work is the recipe. Others feel that a strong religious foundation will carry them through. And there are yet others who believe a more laisse-faire attitude towards child-rearing is the best method. How's a parent to know?

I'm not a big believer in one style of parenting. I think certain situations call for different methods. I will not allow myself to be put in a box. Children are all so unique, not even the same children in the same family will respond well to the same discipline style. All parents get quickly familiar with that upon the arrival of each new kid. So what do we do?

We listen to our kids. We learn our kids. There is not a book for that. Only you know your kid because you have a relationship with them. You know the tired cry from the hurt cry. You know the sound of backtalk from the sound of a genuine question. Most parents don't give themselves enough credit. You already know your kids. Yet, we feel the need to follow what someone else says in regards to discipline (remember discipline is not punishment, but discipling - showing them the way). Why is that?

It is much easier to speak from a retrospective standpoint. My blog attests to years and years of questioning and experimenting and failing when it comes to raising my own kids. But now that we're on the far side of parenting, I can see some things more clearly. For one, I was terrified of "messing up" my kids by my choices. Didn't happen. What a waste of time worrying. From your kids' point of view, you are the authority on every subject whether you feel like it or not. They have undying trust in everything you say.

Which is exactly why this next point is so important. You are your child's mirror! What they think of themselves is what they see reflected in you. Think on that for a moment. Our kids look to us to tell them who they are. Who do we reflect back to them? Are we constantly telling them their problems or are we encouraging them every time they attempt to (and maybe fail) at solveing them. Or are we just solving their problems for them. Do we withdraw our love to show our disappointment when they make a bad choice?

This is one of the most - if not THE most - important responsibilities of parenthood. We are not to hold our authority over them with an iron fist. We are not to demand respect because of our position. We are not there to fix our children's problems. We are not there to make life easy for them. We are there to love them, to be their mirror, and to show and tell them who they are.

For instance, for a while Chloe wasn't acting like herself and some negative behaviors were showing up in her life. Because of the heart connection we have and our mutual trust, she knows that when we need to sit down and talk about this, that she is not going to get chewed out nor are we going to yell. What we are going to say is, "Honey, I see some behaviors in your life right now that aren't consistent with who I know you to be. You are a kind, thoughtful, helpful, smart, conscientious girl who always does her best (this is the mirroring part). Yet, I'm not seeing that right now in your life. Is something going on that you'd like to share with me?"

There is usually a breakdown of tears and a deep sigh revealing the heavy burden that she has been carrying but has been scared to trust anyone with. There is no shame in this conversation, in this failure, in this situation. There is only love. She has the freedom to share her burden because she knows that the basis for all this is love, not "how bad she's been."  She was then able to confide in us. It still required discipline and helping set her back on the path, which might have caused her some discomfort. But it also caused a huge relief. It also brought joy back to her life. It re-established our heart connection. She is free to fail in a loving environment because we are here, not as her condemners, but as the ones who breathe life back into her and remind her of who she is. I think Mr. Rogers said it perfectly, "Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people."

I'll leave you with a portion of a poem written by Richard Rohr entitled: The Divine Mirror. It is written as our response to God, but can just as easily be substituted for human/parental love. Isn't God, afterall, the best example of love for us to model ourselves by whether as parents or human beings?

When we learn to love anyone or anything,
It is because they have somehow, if just for a moment, 
Mirrored us truthfully yet compassionately to ourselves.

If that mirror is withdrawn for any reason,
It causes sadness, emptiness, or even anger.
We are normally disoriented, even heartbroken for a while.
We die in some way. But why?
Because we only know ourselves in another's eyes,
We receive our identity - all of it - good and bad,
From another.

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