Being ourselves is something we might assume is natural to us. But if you look at our upbringing, society, and everything that is projected at us and our children, it is often about being everything but ourselves. We learn what not to do, how not to behave, to have the right answers, how not to disappoint others, and how to be what others desire us to be. But who is telling us that is okay to be ourselves without giving way to all those taught expectations, judgments and ideals?
During my son’s childhood, I became aware that the choices I believed I had to make as a parent were not actually encouraging my son to be himself. I noticed he’d begun talking to me less and avoiding me more. I was constantly worried that he wasn’t making the right choices to succeed in life. I made lists, judgments and rules for him based on what I decided was best. I wasn’t looking at who he was or trusting and honoring his difference. When I took a moment to step into his shoes and see myself through his eyes, I realized that my son and I are completely different people. I'd been treating him based on what would work for me, and not for him. At that moment, I knew, if I were him, I wouldn’t want to talk to me either!
Here are three key principles I used to guide me in making choices that increased the trust, honoring and allowance in my relationship with my son:
Choose to be whole as a person
20 years ago, when I became a mother, I would hold my son as he giggled with joy, waving his feet around, so alive and enjoying his body. I remember thinking, “Oh please, allow me never to cut that off from him.”
As he grew, I knew that if I was going to allow him to keep his joy and exuberance for living, I would have to choose more for me as well. Prior to this, I’d believed I must give all of myself to my son, causing me to lose myself in motherhood. When I start to include me on my list of priorities as well as take care of my son, my own sense of value and enjoyment in living grew., Amazingly, my son also became more confident and independent. By giving myself permission to be a part of the parenting equation, it enhanced – not undermined – my son’s experience of childhood.
A simple way tool for putting you higher on your priority list begins with asking, “If I were to choose one thing today just for me, what would it be?” and then – doing it! Spend one hour a day and one full day a week doing something nurturing just for you.
Choosing what brings you joy in your daily life is the easiest and most effective way to encourage your kids to prioritize their own joy of living, too.
Allow independence from a young age
I doubt I was the only child ever told, “When you grow up and are old enough, you can choose for yourself.” For me, this set up my beliefs that a parent must choose for their young child, but with my son, it was apparent that even from a young age he knew what he desired and required – and it was often very different from what I thought it should be! For example, he had his own sense of matching his clothes. What he wanted to wear was rarely what I would have picked for him, but I asked myself, is this really something where it is important for me to say no to him, or would it be more enhancing for me to allow him to have his own choice?
What if you can allow your children their own choices - even if they are different from what you would choose? Rather than try to tell your child what choice you think will work best for them, ask them a question: “If you choose that, what will it create?” The only way for a child to begin to trust their choices, know how to choose, and know what their choices will create in their lives and the world, is by being allowed and empowered to choose for themselves, and see what shows up. Even when outcomes aren’t ideal, they’ll gain much more learning from their own choices, than from following others.
Reject judgment of self and choose acknowledgment instead
We all are doing the best we know how in the moment. I didn’t wake up one day and radically adopt a new way of being a mother. I started making small changes that over time have made all the difference. The more I eliminated the self-judgment and acknowledged rather than criticized myself, I had more ease with being myself in my life and with my son.
We often want to protect our children from things that occur in the adult world, including the less-than-sunny sides of life – but have you noticed that children are highly perceptive? When we try to protect our children, we can end up invalidating their astuteness regarding the world around them. For example, if your child says, “Mom, are you sad?” and you tell them you are not, when you are, this negates their awareness and can cause them to doubt themselves as wrong when they are not. What if instead, you could say, “Hey, yes, I am a bit sad. Sometimes that happens, but you know, thank you for asking me that because now I am changing it!”
Children learn from what we choose to be, not what we say or oftentimes do. Teaching your kids to be themselves - to trust and honor themselves without judgment – starts with you being more of you. What if you took the weight of expectations of you and your kids and explored how much fun you can have creating a world where everyone gets to be themselves?
Norma Forastiere is a business mentor, natural therapist and certified facilitator of several Access Consciousness® special programs, including Being You, Right Voice for You, Joy of Business, Being You, and Access Bars®. A self-proclaimed seeker, Norma began practicing mediation at an early age and then went on to study metaphysics and several energy healing and natural therapy modalities. A native Portuguese speaker with a proficiency in English and Spanish, Norma offers workshops and consultations for those willing to explore greater possibilities in life, communication and business. Follow Norma.