Are You Unintentionally Harming Your Kids?
by Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (more parenting articles are available)
You love your kids and you want the best for them. What if in striving to do what is best for them, you actually stifle them or even harm them?
Not many parents admit to making any mistakes in their parenting. It’s too painful, too personal, and feels too vulnerable. E. Way risks all of this in Coming Out Of Cage: Journey of a Tiger Mom
as she courageously explores how her parenting influenced her daughter’s post-traumatic stress disorder.
Seeing Signs of Serious Problems
After working hard to get her daughter into a prestigious college, E. Way was ready to celebrate having both her kids successfully launched. However, the feeling of relief was short-lived.
She writes “Not only was I devastated when I heard from my daughter about the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) problem she developed in her first year of college, I was absolutely shocked to find out it had a lot to do with how she was raised. I could not believe much of the pain, pressure, distress, and insecurity she experienced actually came from her father and me.”
Besides mental health issues like PTSD, what are other signs of serious emotional problems in children?
- Experiencing stomach issues, ulcers
- Cutting themselves
- Having an eating disorder
- Suffering from migraines
- Being addicted to video games, the internet or porn
- Using drugs and alcohol
- Running away from home
- Attempting to commit suicide
Recognizing your children’s dysfunctional behavior is the first step in helping them. Serious problems like these do not magically go away.
Acknowledging Your Contribution
It is extremely painful to admit you may have contributed in some way to your kids’ problems. It’s far easier to see yourself as a good parent with a child who has problems.
However, deep down you know the tremendous impact you’ve had on your kids. If your kids are experiencing serious problems, you have played some part in it.
E. Way explains “In no way did I think the tennis, swimming, and piano lessons; summer camps, Chinese schools, math and science enrichment programs, church clubs and activities …. I arranged for them were excessive or unreasonable. I thought I was doing everything responsible and loving parents do for their children. In no way did I think I was domineering and overbearing, in short, a Tiger Mom.
Imagine my shock when my daughter disclosed lots of the heartrending experiences she suffered while growing up. What a blow that was to my ego and pride! I thought I was a great mom.”
Ouch! It takes real courage to look at how you may have contributed to your child’s problems.
The point of acknowledging your contribution is not to place blame but rather enable change. When you recognize your role, you are in position to make changes for the better.
There are four stages in moving from being part of the problem to being part of the solution:
- Unconscious incompetence – you don’t realize your behavior is negatively impacting your child
- Conscious incompetence – you recognize your behavior is negatively affecting your child but aren’t sure what else to do
- Conscious competence – you know how to change your behavior to be healthier for both you and your child
- Unconscious competence – you have internalized healthy responses replacing the unhealthy ones
At the first stage you are not even aware of the problem and likely you are parenting the way you had been parented. Only after you gain awareness can you start making changes.
Growing Into a Healthier Relationship
Changing yourself will not be easy. You’ve developed your behaviors and beliefs over your lifetime. These behaviors are deeply ingrained and require significant effort to change.
In her process, E. Way explored how her own upbringing led to both her academic success in earning a law degree and also how it impacted the way she raised her children. She reflected on how she was raised and how it influenced raising her own children.
She writes “To understand what made me such a Tiger Mom, I decided to look back at my childhood. It was terribly trying. I had to look deep into my heart, honestly explore my own growing-up process, and intently confront my past in order to own up to some painful realities. Yet I am thankful because this endeavor allowed me to face up to the fear, insecurity, pride, self-righteousness, guilt, and shame that for many years held me captive.”
How has your past led you to the parent you currently are? In what ways are you parenting your children that might ultimately be more hurtful than helpful? Exploring questions like these are key to raising your children in ways that are healthy and supportive.