I love my kids. They know EXACTLY where my buttons are and just how and when to push them. Gosh, it’s super great for personal growth to have children! Bring it on! Rip my soul to pieces while you’re at it!
Ok so how the heck is this happening that CHILDREN are highly attuned ruthless life coaches for us parents? How do they know where we are rigid and stuck and need help? Why do they even bother giving us the pokes and jabs that drive us to the edge of insanity? WHY?!?!
Here’s my understanding, and it’s been consistently true in the last 16 years that I’ve been in close relationships with children.
We Are Mirrors for Each Other
We humans are designed to be mirrors for each other. This is inescapable fact. Free of conditioning, a human mirror spirit shines so brightly and reflects so cleanly. It’s simple and beautiful isn’t it? We love to experience when the human mirror spirits reflect on the beauty and joy in life. Sheer bliss that is. How nice.
But then, when the human mirror spirit decides it’s time to purposely bother mommy again by tossing everything around the house at the end of the day while I’m cooking dinner, laughing in ecstasy at the mayhem he’s creating…. Personally I’m not feeling so grateful and blissful in these moments. It’s like my child is purposely trying to bother me and disrupt harmony! And that’s bad right!?
Well, I don’t think it is actually. Bear with me. I propose that when children do that bother-mommy/bother-daddy behavior, that there is something deeper operating, that they are wanting to free up their parents from the reactions and conditionings the parents carry.
There are times when my children are holding the mirror up in my face, showing me what I taught them, that I get rigid, controlling, uptight around certain aspects of life. They want me free so they can get a flexible, gentle, loving mom again.
Of course I’m not discounting that children could be hungry or tired or have a different need not being met. Yes it could be something else. In this conversation though I’m adding a new reason to consider when asking “Why is my child misbehaving?”
It could be that they’re giving YOU a big fat signal that you, the parent, indeed need to look in the mirror and take some time to address your needs. We ourselves are the “issue” sometimes. I know how it is wanting to blame kids for not acting harmonious with our plans. It sure would be easier if they would just cooperate…
A Spiritual Perspective
But this thing called life is not solely about harmony and cooperation. Those things are good, and we need a lot of goodness. But I think we are here, spirits in human bodies for a reason, and that reason unfolds and reveals itself when we open our hearts to the processes of self discovery and personal growth. Realizing who and what we are as spirit is kind of what life is all about.
With spiritual perspective, that there is an essence who is me separate from my temporary body, I experience that trials and tribulations become HUGE opportunities to learn and grow. That is what I want. To learn and grow as a human mirror spirit myself!
So when my children push my buttons to the extreme of irritation, I can stop for a split second, look them in the eyes, and say (in so many words), “Thank you. You’re driving me completely crazy in the emotional and mental departments, and this is a good thing. I welcome being churned up. Sure. Okay, let’s do this. Let’s see what I’m made of, who am I, what are my values, and can I still be in my integrity by the end of this day. This is what I signed up for, and I will gladly oblige to take on this challenge, dear child of mine.”
I can’t say that I’ve ever quite surrendered to that level before! Ha! But this is my aim, to gracefully welcome the button-pushing…
It’s very easy for children to know where we are rigid and stuck. We show them every time we are not flexible or conscious around a certain issue. Where am I repeating behavior that does not look like my soul shining brightly with fresh creativity? Anything that is repetitive, repulsive, and confusing is probably stuck behavior begging for change. Since children are complete human beings unto themselves, they are superbly sharp and pick up on the slightest rigidities and want to help us untangle these knots in our being. Another big thank you to the kids out there.
Unfortunately I think parents aren’t adding this perspective to the reasons that children misbehave. What happens is parents usually admonish children for being defiant and bothersome. Or, alternatively parents go passive and do not set boundaries. Aggressive and passive approaches tend to not create win-wins in family life.
Aggressive vs. Passive vs. Assertive Responses
Aggressive approaches to child-button-pushing communicate that the parent matters and the child does not. So by punishing or overpowering in some way, the parent gets an experience of having gained the appearance of control over the situation and the child is left usually feeling pain and loneliness. Connection and trust is broken with aggressive responses.
When a parent reacts passively to getting his/her buttons pushed by a child, what this communicates is that the child matters and the parent does not. So a parent can get run over by the child by not taking a stand for respectful behavior. The result of passive parenting approaches is usually that children can end up feeling scared with too much power. The parent can feel powerless to create a win-win paradigm. I think this passive paradigm creates low trust and disconnection as well for the relationship.
However, when a parent understands that joyful times and challenging times are a part of parenting, that children will inevitably expertly offer emotional jabs to the parent, that there are mysterious lessons in all the varieties of moments in the life of a parent, and THEN assertively welcomes the challenges when they come – the opportunity to grow and learn are much greater. Furthermore, a deep sense of satisfaction occurs because welcoming all types of conflict is like some sort of sought after zen surrender. Super liberating to be firmly situated in acceptance and mutual respect.
Assertive parenting communicates that both the child and the parent matter. Assertive responses to button-pushing will create win-wins in the parent-child relationship. This is because the needs and wants of all parties are being taken into consideration. Let me demonstrate a real life example of an assertive response.
My 3.5 year old son sometimes adds a sneaky giggle to his dumping of toy baskets around the house. As if the random dumping wasn’t enough to trigger a feeling inside of me! He remembers in the past that I have reacted aggressively with snatching or emotional intensity. So for one reason or another he is strongly compelled to push my button again and add the sneaky ecstatic giggles to the random dumping of toys. I think what gets me is that I feel like I must go running up to him, dropping what I was doing, to stop the complete destruction of the house. Well, I react. I get uptight and controlling. I feel like I know he shouldn’t act like this.
Anyway, an assertive response could look like gently holding my child, setting a boundary about dumping things, communicating what I need or want, checking in to find out what he’s needing. There are many ways to expect, welcome, and surrender to the button-pushing growth opportunities. Ultimately, my child and I both matter, therefore I aim to be gentle and look for that win-win.
In reaching for authentic gratitude, come what may in the parenthood experience, I turn towards supportive relationships and also to my relationship with the Divine/God. In these relationships I get to reflect on who am I, why do I have these buttons, and also what is my duty and position in this parenting role. Through this reflective process with human mirror spirits and with the ultimate supporter, God, I can see myself more clearly, see the opportunities within the struggle, and ultimately experience sincere gratitude for the blessings in my life.
Without support of some kind my parenting exists in isolation, and I find isolation to be the anti-thesis of joyful grateful growth. It seems like gratitude lives in sacred loving expansive places, such as a human’s heart who is currently receiving some love and kindness. We parents deserve to create kindness for ourselves, little by little, in increasingly substantial doses, for the benefit of children and the world. That’s right!
Parents, a challenge: Try on gratitude when the kids are really going in for a stabby button push. There may just be a huge breakthrough right around the corner, a connection, a surrender, a realization that’s pivotal for your existence.
Do you think you could find gratitude in the exact moments when you feel insanely triggered by your child? I’m interested to hear your comments.