Such a simple message but the best parenting advice I know. I am a fan of Jo Frost, Supernanny. She sometimes shows such brilliant understanding (like a small child scarring her own face when she sucked her thumb because of her older sister’s being treated like a baby due to being premature) but generally you see the same parenting methods. She basically sets expectations and boundaries for the kids so that when they test the parents‘ boundaries (which they are meant to do in order to grow up) the parents will know how to respond. Jo usually has to give them the extra strength to resist (return the child to bed 40 times instead of giving in and letting them sleep with the parents for example).
Can we parent ourselves that way? Or diet that way? If I keep acting up and adding ‘little extras’ to my diet my body always resists and I put on weight. Once I learn that I cannot keep doing that I will be healthier and happier for not eating large amounts of unhealthy food and constantly testing my limits. I am like the kid that gets more sleep finally, and whose parents are happier; benefits that were realised because boundaries came into play. Mother nature is strong for me (responds the same way each time by making me fat) and I just have to find different methods for myself to stop ‘acting up’ and looking for ‘love’ in the chocolate block.
Anyway I digress. Where on earth was I? I will just finish Jo Frost. So her second message is always to give the children consistent love so that they get their needs met, feel wanted and part of the family and don’t feel the need to act up for attention of any kind in the first place. She takes them on outings to the park for some reason, or has them do craft together or find something new like karate for father and son to do together. This showing of love is the foundation for most of the parenting courses I have undertaken. Have FUN with your kids. Let them know you will give them attention even when they don’t act up. Take time for them. Don’t let all the words you use be to keep them in line. They won’t keep listening to you and you become distant and ineffective anyway. ‘Help is the sunny side of control’ is another quote I like. Stop helping them and invite them to help you instead. They have lots to teach!!
So why do we (and kids) need the most love when we least deserve it? When we become insecure (feeling unloved and unappreciated) we start acting up. We become irritable and defensive to those around us and in their eyes we are less ‘lovable’. We might start doing things to get other’s attention, shout or slam doors or start swearing to externalize our feelings. Neither produces a great response in others. It can make them irritable and defensive if they think you have attacked them in some way. They are likely to give you less love and the spiral continues.
You would do just as well to remember to be your own ‘parent’. Treat yourself like this with consistent love and positive messages about your achievements. Take time out for yourself to have fun. Take time out to work out what fun even means for you. Set your own boundaries if life hasn’t already done that for you. Swap your family’s or anyone else’s voices for your own inner voice. That’s my favourite lesson in life so far.
What I have learned from exploring this quote is that we should treat ourselves as we want others to treat us. I heard that the basis of absolutely all religions is ‘treat others as you would want to be treated’. So mine is reversed. ‘Do unto yourself as you would other people do unto you’. When you least ‘deserve’ love, love yourself more for recognising it. Be kind to yourself. And if you can recognise the hurt in everyone else when they appear to be ‘mean’, you will see the world as full of scared children, rather than nasty people. I know which world I would rather live in.