How we deal with that is largely a product of how we ourselves were raised; how we were "apprenticed" as parents-to-be. Only when we realize that we have options as parents, that we don't need to follow the status quo, and that how we interact with our children affects not only them, but us, do we become students as well as teachers. The myriad daily exchanges between child and parent (spoken and unspoken) are a sensitive biofeedback system in which we continually adapt to one another—parent and child possessing equal intelligence (more or less), though far apart in years of experience and physical power. Nonetheless, both parent and child are capable of nudging the system in the direction of kindness and wisdom.
Those of us apprenticed in fundamentalist, authoritarian households can benefit from new parenting models, such as Brené Brown, mom, author, and research professor who studies (according to her bio online) "vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame." Below is her parenting manifesto (you can hear it read it aloud to Oprah here). If you haven't seen Brown's 2010 TED talk on the power of vulnerability, it is highly recommended.
The Wholehearted Parenting ManifestoHow were you raised? Do you parent differently than you were parented?
- Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions--the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.
- I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.
- We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.
- We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.
- You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.
- I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude.
- I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.
- When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.
- Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.
- We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.
- As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.
- I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.