Parenting & Forgiveness

Exploring parenting styles such; Conscious Parenting, Gentle Parenting, Authoritarian Parenting, Controlling Parenting and the benefits of Forgiveness.

Four Steps to Forgiveness imageWhen it comes to issues around parenting even a little bit of forgiveness goes a long way. Ideally as parents, we teach our children how to regulate and express their emotions in healthy and constructive ways. We want to do this in order for them to become healthy and well-adjusted adults able to have resilience and competence in dealing with the challenges of life. Yet, if we ourselves grew up without being taught the skills of how to regulate our emotions effectively then we need to teach ourselves those skills in order to be able to pass them on to our kids.

The ability to forgive is a skill that many of us have never been taught. Yet, we somehow expect ourselves to be able to do it. (See the links on this page for a free ebook on how to forgive). Even a cursory look at families, child development and society in general, makes it plain how important forgiveness is for emotional resilience and psychological wellbeing. Within families, people can be holding on to resentment about things which happened many years ago. We might have one relative who never talks to another relative, or at least never talks to them in a civilised manner and without getting into an argument. We might have a brother who avoids one of our sisters, or vice versa. We might have an uncle who nobody likes for some unspecified reason and so on. Some of these conflicts may be due a simple misunderstanding or lack of communication.

As parents we wonder what effect this is having on our children. What are they learning and picking up on from what they see the adults around them doing? Are they learning to hold grudges and be bitter and resentful towards others?

Parenting Styles: Conscious Parenting, Gentle Parenting, Authoritarian Parenting

Then there’s the effect that we ourselves have on our kids, either as parents, or co parents. We need to forgive ourselves for not being the perfect parent we would like to be. We may need to forgive our own parents for the less-than-perfect upbringing they gave us. This less-than-perfect upbringing can impinge on how we relate to our own kids. A single mother friend of mine recently exclaimed, “Oh no, I shouted and raged at my daughter this morning and I sounded just like my mother. That is exactly what I don’t want to do!” She remembers only too well the negative effect that her mother’s authoritarian and controlling parenting style had on her and wants to avoid doing the same with her own kids.

We may have had an odd mix of parenting experiences when we were a child with one parent being self-absorbed and narcissistic and the other parent being overbearing and authoritarian. This can either leave us feeling muddled and confused in which way to go with our own parenting or go the other extreme and be absolute in our choice of parenting style. However, we might find that different children respond better to different styles of parenting.

As parents we try to do our best, especially if we are working with “conscious parenting”, “gentle parenting”  and we know only too well the importance of setting a good example. You want to be patient with “little Johnny” and teach him how to handle strong emotions in a constructive way. But you have just blown your top at him when he moodily threw his toys all around the room for the third time this morning. All your carefully considered concerns about his child development stages are forgotten as you wonder if a trade-in is possible.

All any of us can do is take responsibility for the feelings arising in us which caused us to react, forgive ourselves, apologize to the child, and move on. Does the idea of apologizing to your child fill you with horror? If so. consider this. If you model the ability to apologize to your child they may well at times apologize to you and be easier for you to get along with.

Four Steps to Forgiveness imageSelf forgiveness is helpful to parents because if we tend to blame and shame ourselves for our own adult style upsets (which may not be all that different from childish “tantrums”), or the times when we just “lose it”, then we will be likely to blame and shame our kids for theirs. We need to break the cycle of blaming and shaming and in-still skills in how to be emotionally resilient within ourselves and in our children. Blame and shame, in the long-term, just tends to make people suppress emotions; when what is needed is the skills to resolve them in constructive ways. The ability to forgive can break multi generational patters of blame and shame.

Parents are Not God

Looking back on it I can only wonder at the challenges my mother overcame in trying to create “a happy home” while dealing with us five squabbling kids. My mum would look at us mis-behaving and sometimes she would shake her head and say, “I blame the parents…” Then she would grin and say, “Oh no, that’s me!”. When a friend of mine was at her wits end with her kids, I put on a cheesy smile and in a breathy voice said, “Home is about creating a beautiful, safe and loving place where children can argue, squabble and fight with each other.” That made her laugh. Yet, I was also making a point. It may well be that kids bring their own issues with them into the world and the parents job is to help them work through those issues. The issues kids seem to have with their parents may be more about issues they have with life itself. Part of the art of handling life is to learn how to constructively cope in situations where we don’t get what we want and the younger we learn that the better.

The general atmosphere in the home is bound to effect our emotional state. We might be a single parent who feels like we are really struggling to raise the kids, and possibly resentful about the ‘missing’ parent. Or the other parent may be physically present, but unwilling to participate in family life. We might have an ongoing struggles with the other parent or a tension-filled truce. Such things can all too easily build up and make us slip into unconscious and reactive behaviour with our children. Leaning to forgive the other parent may well be an essential part of creating harmony in the home. However, that does not mean we have to put up with harmful behaviour. (See the Tough Forgiveness chapter in The Four Steps to Forgiveness).

We all learn that to be a good parent we need to stop stuffing down our own feelings of disappointment, frustration, anger and despair and learn to handle them consciously. That enables us have a bad day without needing to take it out on anyone. That way we become a better role model and teach our kids how to handle problems and mistakes by letting them see how we acknowledge and handle our own.

It is better to ask for what you want than complain about not having it. – Forgiveness is Power.

How we respond in highly-charged moments is one of the keys to the emotional resilience needed for good parenting. Those highly charged moments are not necessarily “the problem”; it is how we handle them is the problem. If we are out of touch with our feelings, or resist expressing them till we explode; then this is sign that we need to learn to emotional resilience and also how to negotiate what we want in better ways.

If we want something badly it can be hard to ask for it, because if the person we ask refuses or rejects our request that can feel very hurtful. This can cause us to only ask for what we want with a lot of “charge” (with a tone of “you better not refuse”), or we may resist asking till it comes bursting out in anger or frustration. We may think that this is “asking” but really it is more likely complaining, and complaining very strongly at that. We may well be expressing our needs as demands. Yet. does anyone like to be at the receiving end of demands? I doubt it. That can soon result in chronic resentment in the other person and lead to a failed relationship, so it is better to learn to negotiate and use demands sparingly if at all.

Part of this is the tendency to assume that we can keep our deepest needs a secret and; simultaneously expect certain people to read our minds in order to meet those needs. As a man I have to say I am rubbish at reading a woman’s mind. Nor have I come across any courses that claimed to help me do that. If I ever see a course titled: “How to Read a Women’s Mind”, I will certainly sign up for it and I am sure many other men would too. But till then it’s best that women know that us men can’t do that very well.

Interested in learning how to forgive so that you can have a better relationships with your kids and everyone else in your life? The links on this page give you access to your copy of, The Four Steps to Forgiveness, a free ebook that will help you learn how to forgive. The book is available as an immediate download, so you don’t even need to enter an email address to get it.

All the best to you in your journey as a parent and in learning how to forgive.

Written by William Fergus Martin, Author: Forgiveness is Power and The Four Steps to Forgiveness.

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Four Steps to Forgiveness

A powerful way to freedom, happiness and success.

William Fergus Martin

ISBN: 978-1-63443-344-0