- Erika Barr
It's Not Personal
Have you ever experienced a moment (or maybe 472 moments) when your child didn’t listen to you? I’m sure that’s never happened; it’s never happened to me. (Pause for me laughing hysterically at that lie!)
Let me tell you about my kids. I have two highly spirited and energetic boys. They are full of joy and FULL of wildness. When they are playing together (read: getting into mischief) there is no getting through to them. They are circling their own little orbit in a universe that I don’t have access to. When they are in this universe, and I have a request, I can: ask them politely, get down on their level, gently put my hands on their bodies, or yell and scream like a mad woman, but my efforts will go completely unnoticed.
So what happens when our kids don’t listen to us? What does our ego do? It takes the behavior personally. Our ego says “LISTEN TO ME! I AM THE PARENT!”. And maybe it says, “Nobody ever listens to me.” Or maybe even, “I feel like these kids are giving me a giant middle finger right now.”
Our ego feels that others should always take us into consideration. But what comes of this? Well, it creates a vicious cycle that keeps us in a state of victimhood. In our mind our children become the perpetrators and we become a victim. The state of WE is left behind and the state of ME takes center stage.
How about when your kid says, “I hate you!” or, “You are the worst mom ever.”? It feels personal right? Our minds go straight to, “Do you know how much I do for you?!” “How dare you say that to your parent?!” Again, it feels personal. How can my child hate me? So how do we change this? How do we NOT take our children’s words and behaviors personally?
There are 3 key things to remember:
1. All Children Are Doing The Best They Can
Young children (ages 2-7) spend most of their time in the THETA brainwave cycle. They are very connected to their inner worlds and live in their imaginations. Rational thinking starts to become evident only towards the end of this phase. Can you guess when adults are in theta? During hypnosis!
So when we ask our children to stop playing with their trucks to put their shoes on, we are trying to reach a person in a state of hypnosis. Of course they can’t hear us! We must remember that they are having their own inner experience that we are not privy to, and most of the time we are imposing on!
When you focus on the intentions of your children, there is no need to take things personally. When a child tells you they hate you, they are trying to communicate to you that there is a disconnection and that they are feeling misunderstood. It is not about you, it is about THEM and their experience.
When you understand that, and aren’t triggered, you can work together to find connection again and hear out their frustrations.
When a child doesn’t listen to you the first, second, or third time you ask them to brush their teeth, it isn’t about you, again it’s about THEM! Imagine you have just gotten into a much needed bath and your partner tells you that they need you to get out immediately to help them clean the office. Are you going to shoot out of the bath and do it? Probably not. Is it about your partner? NO. It’s about you.
And take a moment to think about how many times your child asks you to do something for them right this minute and you put them off. Do you want them to take it personally? Of course not!
3. This is an Opportunity...
This is the big one. When options 1 and 2 fail you, it’s time to look deeper. You need to look at your own wounds and your beliefs about yourself. When we take things personally, we are being shown that there is a wound that has not been healed yet.
Continuing with the example of taking it personally when our kids don’t listen to us, we need to ask ourselves why.
If it feels like your child is giving you the middle finger when they don’t listen to you, you need to ask when this first showed up for you. Did you not feel seen or heard by your parents? Did you feel misunderstood as a child?
And when your child says, “I hate you. You are the worst mom ever!” you will only take these words personally if you believe what they say about you. Maybe deep down you have a belief that you are unlovable. Or a belief that nothing you do is ever good enough. Maybe you felt that way as a child.
All your past wounds can be projected onto your children (and any other relationship in your life) until you witness them and set them free.
Can you take this opportunity to free yourself, and ultimately your children?
As parents, we find ourselves letting our feelings get enmeshed with our children. The work is to disentangle our own emotions from our children’s behaviors and words. Only then can we give our children permission to be their authentic selves.
I look back at my early years of parenting with extra compassion. I took everything personally. My son was attracted to toy guns and swords. What was my reaction? Why does he have to make me look like such bad parent at school when he contorts his hand into a shooting machine?! His attraction to anything “violent” was a direct assault on my character. I couldn’t see clearly because my ego had layered on my past experiences with violence in the media. I couldn’t see that my son’s attraction to these toys was playful and completely non-threatening. All I could see was that he was determined to defy everything that I was raising him to be. I made this innocent and benign behavior into a personal attack on me.
We are called to see our children as they are in the moment. So often we react to our children as we see them, not as the children standing in front of us. When we put the past on our child, that is on us. The problem only lies within us. Our job is to stay clear and keep cleaning our side of the street.
When our self-worth is enmeshed with our children’s behaviors, we inadvertently create a breeding ground for co-dependency. When we untether our worth from their actions, we set both our children *and ourselves* free. We are then free to see our children as they are, and show them what true unconditional love and acceptance feels like.
The next time you hear, “I hate you mom!”, what choice will you make?