Waking to Grow Up - Blog Posts

Making a New Playbook

Across my mind is the embossed goal of being a perfect parent. I wanted to be the very best I could be, and that involved adhering to some core Principles. I also had to study parenting and work very very hard at all times to succeed at:

  • Being fun
  • Not being my Mother
  • Being caring
  • Not being my Mother
  • Being Loving
  • Not being my Mother

As you may have noticed, there was a recurring theme. This is not because my Mother was a terrible mother, she wasn’t. Her skills as a seamstress, cake maker, director and all around “Ladies Home Journal” Mother were legendary. I had neatly divided the pros and cons of her parenting over the 10 months of growing my baby, I wanted to be the very best parent I could be and that involved being more fun, caring and loving than I had patterned from my Mum.

Needless to say, my developmental stage at that point was totally locked into Expert moving into early Achiever, where I wanted to be the best I could be. I had read every possible book, and by the time my baby was born I was ready to make some choices and implement those strategies that seemed the most effective. Of course…I also worried all the time that as a single young parent I would be judged by the world, including my Mother. Consequently, as well as the goals of connection with my new baby (which became the bottom of my list of priorities), I added a series of image based behaviours. These were designed to prove to the world and my family, that I was DEFINITELY taking care of her properly:

  • Never let her have a tantrum or cry too much in public 
  • Always make sure she looks neat and tidy 
  • Teach her to say “please” and “thank you”
  • Provide her with food that was healthy and tasty, no matter the cost
  • Supply her with toys, books, games, opportunities for learning
  • Work as hard as I could to make us enough money to do all the prior things!

Like an evil fairy waving her wand over the first five years of her life, these image based parenting goals lodged a range of emotional and relationship timebombs into her psyche. Each and every one of these were taken from my Mother’s playbook, and they crept into the top of the priority list without me even noticing. 

  • In the process of obsessing about her appearance I gave her the gift of self judgement
  • In teaching her to suppress her emotions in public she learnt to distrust her body and feelings in preference to being “calm”
  • In my determination to provide, I gave her less love and connection then she needed and made her hungry for any attention
  • In offering her every opportunity to be followed up on, I took away her joy of learning and replaced it with expectation
  • In suppressing my own needs and emotions, I put distance in our relationship

Fortunately, my own development was challenged by my amazing child and her honest love and connection. I soon realised what was happening and added self reflection and emotional honesty as new priorities. I would never pretend to her. I would be honest about my feelings. I would not expect her to fulfill my emotional needs. 

Once these entered my practice as a parent, I began the process of Awakening and seeing that the most important principles, as evidenced in research after research, is – authentic connection through responsiveness, emotional wellbeing for both of us, and a focus on our relationship as more important than any “thing” that I could give her. 

I left the “I” for my own work and allowed parenting to be about building a healthy “We”.

When working your way through your parenting goals, remember that through parenting your own child inside and integrating all the parts of yourself, you can be the authentic and connected parent you want to be. In the one moment of connection where your child sees the love shining in your eyes when they are doing nothing but breathing joy, you are being the perfect parent. The parent who accepts the child in them, because you accept the one inside of you. 

Le, B. M., & Impett, E. A. (2019). Parenting goal pursuit is linked to emotional well-being, relationship quality, and responsiveness. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(3), 879–904.

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Ban Lazy!

Jen Haynes. 2020

One of the most debilitating words in the English language is “Lazy”. Adults will label a range of behaviours exhibited by children with the descriptor. Once the label is affixed, it remains for many children for the rest of their life, being passed on to their own children; a noxious cycle of judgement passed down generations. 

The toxicity of “Lazy” is in the subtleness of the word. You can’t point at Lazy, it is not a uniform behaviour in every context and it is not able to be objectively defined. Instead, it sits in the hazy world of judgement that we are taught in our childhood by the angry adult tossing the word at us when we are engaged in a behaviour. For most of us, that behaviour is then labelled as “Lazy” in our minds, to emerge throughout our lives as part of our shame cycle. 

So…what does it stick to?

The only consistent description for the term is that it is used when the labeller wants the labelled to do something other than what they are currently doing. 

Stop being lazy! I asked you to do the washing up, and here you are reading a comic!

The “Lazy” label always requires a judgement that the opposing behaviour is somehow valueless…according to the labeller. 

Accept your own needs!

The challenge for us as adults working with children is therefore to use our Acknowledgement Principles in this context:

#1 – Reciprocal Development – What is the priority for the developmental stage of the child versus your own? Children’s minds are generally primed for learning language, exploring social skills and taking on new systems of learning. They need time to process the vast amount of data they are taking in. Staring into space is often the most important part of a child processing information. It is absolutely NOT a waste of their time.

#2 – Non Exclusion – Just because it doesn’t seem important to you as the grown-up or the other person in this interaction, it doesn’t mean it isn’t. Explore the interests of your child and learn to honour those interests. When a child is determinedly focused on a computer game level, they are seeing it as their “work” and to stop in the middle is torturous! Expand your viewpoint to include their interests.

# 3 – Whole Of Life When you are labelling a “Lazy” behaviour, how much of what you are judging comes from your own life story? Remember that your tone of voice, choice of language, body language and facial expressions, all communicate judgement to your child. What are you relegating to the “Lazy” label, and how will this impact on their life? Do you want them to think negatively about these behaviours for their whole life?

#4 – Face Your Shadow It is time to integrate the behaviours that enrage you in the child in front of you. What seems so “Lazy” that it makes your blood boil? Is it because the job they were supposed to do will fall to you? Is it because you think their lack of eagerness to be responsible seems synonymous with their not caring? Note down what emerges for you and then use a shadow process to explore how this is a projection from your own safety strategies. Find out how to honour and integrate them. 

#5 – Active Awareness – With all of this new insight, move aside your own story of “Lazy” and make way for what the child in front of you really needs; honesty about your own feelings. If you feel uncomfortable saying, “ Stop putting your interests ahead of my responsibilities, just do what I have told you to do immediately.”, then consider the actual value of the task you are delegating to the child. What do you need? What do they need? How can you both be comfortable with the outcome of this investigation? 

Create your own word

Spend some time before speaking to your child to notice what they are doing. What does it look like? To facilitate the retiring of the Lazy word from our vocabulary, consider one of these alternatives to follow “Stop…”:

Resting.  Reflecting.  Thinking.  Imagining.  Playing.  Talking.  Socialising.  Having fun.

Sit with how it feels when you actually say what you mean. 

Personally I find stamping my foot like a toddler and allowing myself to say “It’s not fair” was the first step to realising that I too could choose to not wash-up right now, and instead, I could join my child watching the clouds go by. That would be important and valuable time spent bonding, imagining and experiencing joy. 

Want more insight into the value of play?

To find out about the importance of play for grown-ups then have a read through this fascinating article from Research into Organisational Behaviour. I will also be featuring the importance of play soon, so keep connected to have access to the resources.