4 TIPS FOR BEING A MORE CONFIDENT AND LOVING MOTHER
By Aaron Anderson
If you are having a difficult time being the kind of mother you want to be and often feel overwhelmed with frustration and feelings of inadequacy, you are not alone. Parenting is so often a “seat of the pants” endeavor and many young mothers struggle with feelings of anxiety and isolation.
Fortunately, we live in an era where there is so much help available that wasn’t there in previous generations. You can take advantage of resources like parenting classes and mommy blogs. Watch how loving mothers treat their children. Get rid of old belief systems like “spare the rod and spoil the child” and “children should be seen and not heard” and “you’ll do it because I said so” and “I have to stay with my husband for the sake of the children” and all the other absurd shibboleths that, if adhered to, will damage your child’s self-worth and confidence.
Here are some basic guidelines that will help you along the path to becoming a more loving and confident mother:
4 Tips for Being a More Confident and Loving Mother
RESPECT YOUR CHILD’S FEELINGS
Your ability to respect those feelings, both positive and negative, is vital to your child getting the message that she’s worthwhile and can express herself without fear of retaliation. I’ve had a countless number of clients who told me they never felt safe expressing any form of anger, resentment, disappointment, or an opinion that was different from their mother’s. As a result, they learned that their feelings didn’t matter, and often that THEY don‘t matter–a good way to turn your child into a people pleaser and someone afraid to express themselves or act in their own best interests. Your child needs an atmosphere in which he/she can feel valued and worthy. Here are some suggestions about the tone to take in a conflict: “I know you’re angry and you have a right to your opinion and how you feel. I know you want a puppy/new bicycle/ but this just isn’t the right time. It’s OK for you to be angry – there are times when I get angry at you too. But it’s not OK for you to say nasty things to me. We still need to be respectful to each other even though I know it’s hard sometimes.”
SET REASONABLE LIMITS AND BOUNDARIES
Of course, very young children need control and boundaries. They don’t feel safe without them. As children get older, you can make the boundaries and rules more flexible and negotiate them with your children. This is not being overly permissive which can be as confusing as too much control. You are still in charge and have the final say about such things as curfews and activities. Of course, you don’t have to go along with everything your child wants, but letting your child have a say in the ground rules will allow her to feel heard.
DISCIPLINE, NOT PUNISHMENT
Punishment hurts, discipline teaches. Punishment hurts both physically and emotionally and, while it may temporarily extinguish the unwanted behavior, it also humiliates, creates a lot of anger that the child must repress, and may also create revenge fantasies. Punishment also sends a powerful message to children that they are ’bad.” On the other hand, reducing the child’s allowance for a few weeks (or more depending on the seriousness of the event), removing privileges such as TV watching, restricting social activities for a short period of time, allow children to develop a sense of fairness and at the same time learn that bad behavior has consequences–an important lesson.
KEEP THE ROLE DEFINITIONS CLEAR
Don’t reverse roles–no matter how unhappy you are. Don’t attempt to turn your child into a little adult and yourself into a helpless child. Many women have told me that their mothers, unhappy in their own lives, turned to them not only for comfort but to rescue them. These destructive expectations placed on a child create a deep sense of inadequacy because the child is set up for failure. It’s one more wound to their fragile self-esteem. Many of these mothers disclosed very personal, often intimate, information to their children about their marriage Not only is that totally inappropriate, but it’s also far beyond a young child’s ability to understand. In my new book “Mothers Who Can’t Love: A Healing Guide for Daughters” my client Maggie expressed this dilemma and how self-defeating it can be in later life:
“I heard all about my mother’s marital problems when I was young–my father’s affairs, how miserable she was with him. I realize now that I was exposed to way too much information at an early age–what was I supposed to do? When I was a kid if anything was going to keep us going and feeling even a little bit like a family, I had to do it myself. Cook, clean, remember my brother’s birthday presents–I did everything. And I do the same thing with men. God, Susan, I’m so tired of doing everything. When is somebody going to take care of me?”
GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT (And this might be the most important tip of all)
If you are struggling with depression, addiction, explosive anger, or unresolved issues of abuse – whether it be physical, sexual or emotional – from your own childhood, you must get professional help. What you don’t resolve, you will inevitably put on the small shoulders of your children. By lightening your own baggage, you have an excellent chance to be the kind of mother you want to be–a mother who CAN love in a full and healthy way.