The best gift we can give to our children is to grow and learn how to go beyond our ego’s limits, opening our hearts and minds. This book was created to empower parents to change and awaken their inner loving parent so they can offer their children unconditional acceptance and loving guidance while setting limits gently and skillfully. We hope this guide will help parents to find balance and cultivate mindful awareness while raising children in the hyperactive culture of the twenty-first century.
“A concise, practical, wise, and modern guide for raising children—for busy, intelligent parents. A book written with a compassionate heart and a mind that digested and integrated the lifelong experiences of personal development and helping others. Reading the book, we go through a thoughtful, brief, and useful course in psychology and belief therapy. Liberating and revealing for parents, and beneficial for their children. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.”
—Wojciech Eichelberger, author of A Woman without Blame and Shame, Alchemy of the Alchemist, and many more.
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Happy Parents — Happy ChildrenPractical Guide for Parents
By Kristina Lukawska
Balboa PressCopyright © 2012 Kristina Lukawska
All right reserved.
Chapter OneStep One: AVOID REPEATING YOUR PARENTS' MISTAKES
Why do you make the same mistakes your parents made?
I will never forget a situation that took place when my daughter was eight or nine. It was summer and I took my children to the lake. I parked the car in the parking lot next to the beach. I proceeded to take things out of the car, while my daughter Kaya shuffled her feet, eager to get into the water. When I was finally ready to head towards the lake, I let Kaya run ahead. Excited, she hopped around the car, straight onto a bicycle path. I heard her shout and saw her crash into a fast moving man on roller-skates, and then I saw both of them fall to the ground. I was terrified. Moving quickly toward her, I started yelling, "Can't you see this is a bicycle path?! You never look where you're going!"
Trembling with fear and agitation, I offered Kaya my hand to help her get up. She pushed it away, wiped tears from her eyes, looked at me and said, "So instead of asking me if I got hurt or if I'm okay, you are standing over me yelling?!"
Then she brushed her skirt clean and again headed toward the lake. I stood there, dumbfounded and embarrassed, but also full of admiration for my child, who had turned out to be more mature than me, her mother. I promised myself then that never again would I permit such a situation to happen.
I realized then, that I reacted in exactly the same way my mother used to react in similar situations. When something happened – I tripped or fell– she would panic and yell, and shake or hit me. I now know that she did that because she was worried or concerned about me. Later I would unwittingly repeat her actions, doing exactly what I had hated most about her responses. Thanks to that situation, I also realized that under the influence of strong emotions such as anxiety, anger, fear or shame, I behaved against my better judgment, doing or saying things I later regretted.
We often do things automatically, repeating behaviors that we learned a long time ago, under completely different circumstances. We unwittingly treat our children in the same way we used to be treated by our parents and guardians.
Review your beliefs
Our beliefs, instilled in us during childhood by parents and teachers, are unconscious patterns, which influence all our decisions.
These patterns are beliefs that our parents have created or passed on from earlier generations. The view that was prominent in my own home – that in order to become independent, a woman first had to complete university studies – had been created by my grandmother, the first woman in the family, who had taken them up. However, such beliefs refer to all spheres of life. Most of them can be found in many families or even societies, for example, the idea that hospitality requires you feed your guest. Other ones are typical only for certain families.
In one family we find the view that a girl should wait for the boy to initiate a date. In another, there is the view that a woman has the same right to propose a date as a man has. Similarly, in one family one may hear that a woman should complete her studies and be independent, while in another one hears she has no chance of becoming independent at all. Some parents try to persuade their children that they can achieve something in life only through hard work, while others raise them with the conviction that passion is what counts most. Still others repeat that it is not worth making an effort since no one is going to appreciate it anyway.
Reflect on the beliefs about a traditional family model that were present in your home. What are your current beliefs in that matter?
In order to become more aware of your beliefs, you can complete the following sentences. This will help you recognize the differences between your mother and father's thinking, as well as to consider what is most important for you in these roles:
My mother thought that a good mother should ...
My father thought that a good father should ...
I now think that a good father should ...
I now think that a good mother should ...
My mother thought that children should ...
My father thought that children should ...
I now think that children should ...
My mother thought that in a good family ...
My father thought that in a good family ...
I now think that in a good family ...
We have absorbed some of these views by listening to the commentaries of parents or guardians, or simply by observing their behaviors. These are the so-called "unwritten laws," which were enforced in our homes, for example, "the man is the breadwinner," "the woman should put the children first, not herself," "one has to be a hard-worker in order to make a living," "a good education is the most important thing in life," "one can always count on support from one's parents," or "children are a disgrace to their family if they misbehave."
We hold innumerable beliefs of this kind. Even though we are unaware of most of them, they work as patterns, which automatically influence our reactions and decisions. Those patterns may pertain to any sphere of our life: love, marriage, religion, work, finances, and even politics. There is no point in judging them. Let us consider instead, what role they play in our life and whether they serve us well.
If we do not verify our beliefs, we hand down the same habits, prejudices, worries and concerns from generation to generation.
I heard a story about a woman, who baked a cake according to her mother's recipe a few times a year. The recipe said that after forming the dough one should cut off an inch on one side of it, and then put the remaining dough into the baking tin. After a few years of faithfully carrying out the instructions in the recipe, the woman asked her mother, why the inch piece of dough has to be cut off and thrown away. Her mother said she did not know but remembered her own mother always used to do it that way. The woman then decided to ask her grandmother. It turned out that her grandmother had a smaller baking tin than the one mentioned in the original recipe.
As long as such a pattern is working in us on an unconscious level, then every time we do something contrary to it, we feel anxious or guilty. These patterns – our conscious and unconscious beliefs – shape our automatic reactions.
Eve, one of my clients, was a single mother and wanted to get married. Many attempts to achieve this failed. During her therapy, Eve discovered that she was already the fourth generation of single mothers in her family. She remembered that her mother used to always say, "Marriage and household duties kill love." Eve realized that every time she talked with any of her partners about marriage, something would go wrong, they would start arguing, and finally break up. As soon as marriage seemed possible, the unconscious belief that had been instilled in her for so many years that "marriage kills love" would cause so much anxiety that she preferred to run away than confront it. It is worth reflecting on these beliefs, as they are the source of the decisions we make throughout our lives.
We can consciously verify and change all our beliefs.
I have moved often during my life and every time, it was a nightmare – I could not go to bed until I had put everything away. The same with cleaning up after parties, even if they ended in the morning. It took me many years to realize I had been doing this unconsciously, simply because that was the custom in my family. The beliefs shared by my grandmother and mother that "The upkeep of my home reflects who I am" "A good housewife always keeps her home tidy" and "A good housewife goes to bed only after everything is in order" unwittingly became my own. When I realized that, I made a conscious decision to break free from the beliefs that boiled down to clean pots being more important than my rest, in other words – the hidden assumption that getting something done is more important than the well-being of the person doing it.
Changing our beliefs, we free ourselves from our automatic reactions and begin to act in accordance with our own values, instead of repeating the behaviors of our parents.
It is worth reflecting on the beliefs that are the source of the decisions we make.
We also have many conscious and unconscious beliefs about raising children. Some of those beliefs, adopted from our parents, are not helpful in raising our own children. Here are examples of a few common assumptions, which do not help us raise our children:
? "I have to do my utmost not to let my children suffer."
This is one of the beliefs that leads to parental over-protectiveness. We can try to create the best possible conditions for our children, take care of their safety, health and comprehensive development, but we cannot protect them from pain, sickness, failure, hurt and suffering. We have no influence on most of the decisions our children make, but we can teach them self-esteem, so that they see taking care of themselves and their needs as more important than gaining the approval of others. We have to accept that we have no influence on their relationships, but we can make sure that in our own relationship with them, love, respect and warmth are dominant.
? "If my children are disobedient, it means they do not respect me."
Obedience has often been mistaken for respect. Children were expected to behave, that is, to be obedient to their parents. We now know that the sense of responsibility for one's actions, relationships and decisions is more important than obedience. Respect is due both to the parents and to the children. It is most evident in the consideration for one another's autonomy and in giving one another the right to have differing views. If we fully honor our children's sovereignty, their differing views will not hurt our feelings.
? "Children who misbehave are a disgrace to their parents."
As long as we believe this, we will not be able to determine what feelings and needs are behind our children's misbehavior. The fear that others will criticize us is going to be stronger than the concern for our children's needs. This attitude results from guilt caused by the mistakes our children make. Let us not blame ourselves, and let us try not to blame our own parents for our own failures.
Forgive your parents
Forgiving our parents is one of the basic prerequisites for liberating ourselves from the past. By forgiving, we acknowledge the fact that our parents have unwittingly handed down to us the patterns they had inherited from their own parents and had struggled with themselves.
By forgiving, we free ourselves from the traumatic baggage of childhood, from the feeling of hurt and from the need to blame, and we can take responsibility for our life. Forgiveness does not mean acceptance. We can forgive, while still considering our parents' behavior to have been inappropriate or cruel.
"It's never too late for a happy childhood" – I once saw this phrase on a bumper sticker. I noticed it when I realized I could forgive my parents everything: from trivial, isolated incidents, to behavior that had gone on for months or years. Most parents try to raise their children as best they can, according to the models and values they themselves had been raised with. If we look at our own parents from that perspective – taking into account the conditions they grew up in – we create a space that enables us to see the happy and joyous moments in our childhood.
More clearly than in any other relationships, we can see ourselves in the relationships with our children. We can see our tenderness, affection, devotion and persistence, but also our helplessness, uncertainty, anxiety, great hopes and unfulfilled dreams. The more self-aware we are, the more conscious of our expectations, fears and concerns, the less probable it becomes that we burden our children with them.
One of the methods helpful in raising one's consciousness and living in harmony with oneself and the world is the practice of mindfulness. It has been adopted from Eastern meditation traditions and is currently widely used in psychology, medicine and many schools of spiritual development. Mindfulness is the conscious focusing of non-judgmental awareness on the present moment, on what is going on right now.
EXERCISE No. 1
The practice of mindfulness
Sit comfortably in a chair, placing your feet on the floor. Relax your arms and put your hands on your thighs. Keep your back straight. Close your eyes and begin to breathe calmly. Letting the breathing be regular and slow, observe each inhalation and each exhalation. Feel your abdomen lightly lift with each inhalation, and drop with each exhalation.
Keeping your attention on each breath, be mindful of your body. Be aware of the sensations that come and go: the arm twitching, the thigh trembling slightly, the forehead itching, the shin going numb ... Your mind may wander. Various images and ideas are going to distract your attention. Whenever you notice yourself attaching to a thought, go back to the breath and mindfulness of the body.
You can repeat this mindfulness exercise many times during the day, doing it for five or fifteen minutes or even for half an hour if you need to. You can practice this technique during various activities, even when talking to someone. Mindfulness is the basis of wholesome, good, warm relationships, also with children. If we are aware and mindful when we engage with the child, we can perceive them with empathy and compassion, see the deeper motivations of their behavior and understand their needs. Consequently, we develop respect for the deep, absolute autonomy of the child.
Your parents and your children are within the breath; your body and your mind are within the breath. The breath is the current connecting body and mind, connecting us with our parents and our children, connecting our body with the outer world's body. It is the current of life. There are nothing but golden fish in this stream. All we need to see them clearly is the lens of awareness. Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are
Chapter TwoStep Two: LEARN TO ACCEPT EMOTIONS
Why controlling your emotions is not helpful
You burst out with anger, yell at the child, scold and insult her. After a while, the anger subsides, you become aware of your behavior and you feel guilty. You reproach yourself: "How could I have said something like that? I do not know how to control myself. I have to learn to control my emotions better."
Nothing could be more misleading.
Controlling emotions means suppressing them.
We do not know how to handle fear, anxiety, anger, sadness and helplessness. We struggle with these emotions, we are ashamed and fear them, and we do not know how to express them appropriately. Since childhood, we have been taught to suppress emotions. Adults say, "Don't get angry, it isn't nice" or "There's nothing to be afraid of," and so we learn that anger and fear are inappropriate, and since we do feel them, we have to suppress them. We consciously strive not to express them, losing touch with our feelings and eventually finding it difficult to identify them.
Sometimes, when I ask clients what situation recently caused their anger; I hear the answer, "I rarely get angry." This may mean they rarely raise their voice, but most likely they simply do not accept that feeling in themselves, and when it comes up, they ignore it. They deny feeling anger – not only in front of others but, first of all, before themselves.
The more we dislike and are not able to accept a certain feeling in ourselves, the more difficult it is to recognize its appearance.
Consequently, certain negative feelings grow on an unconscious level to such a degree, that those around us notice it, while we still deny it, saying that we are by no means angry. Because of fear, we also often ignore, suppress and hide other negative feelings. We fear they may engulf or overwhelm us. We fear we may not be able to break free from and cope with them. We also fear we may end up hurting others and immediately reproaching ourselves for it.
Excerpted from Happy Parents — Happy Children by Kristina Lukawska Copyright © 2012 by Kristina Lukawska. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Step One: AVOID REPEATING YOUR PARENTS' MISTAKES....................1
Why do you make the same mistakes your parents made?....................1
Review your beliefs....................2
Forgive your parents....................8
Step Two: LEARN TO ACCEPT EMOTIONS....................13
Why controlling your emotions is not helpful....................13
Stop and listen to yourself....................18
Practice identifying and accepting your children's feelings....................22
Six principles of listening with acceptance....................26
Attune to your children's feelings....................29
Step Three: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF....................33
Let go of guilt....................33
Awaken the good, loving parent in yourself....................43
Take care of yourself....................46
Step Four: HELP YOUR CHILDREN DEVELOP THEIR NATURAL POTENTIAL....................51
Create a loving and safe home....................51
Help your children develop high self-esteem....................55
Nurture your children's natural curiosity....................72
Step Five: SET LIMITS WITH LOVE....................79
Assume your children are doing the best they can....................79
Use positive discipline instead of punishment....................80
How to set limits so children will not respond with defiance?....................82
Involve the children in joint problem solving....................91
Step Six: BUILDING A HAPPY FAMILY....................95
Respect the boundaries and create safe space for everyone....................97
See the family as one whole....................100
Cultivate family rituals....................105
About the Author....................117
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is concise, thoughtful, and non-blaming guide that all parents should read (and re-read). It is full of meditations, visualizations, affirmations, exercises and topics for parents to reflect. It teaches how to parent with acceptance, respect and compassion. Liberating and very empowering!