Flavours of parenting
Parenting can have different flavours. Sometimes sweet, and let’s have it this way most often, sometimes bitter, difficult to swallow.
Working with parents, and being one too, shows us that there are some moments when we do things that do not contribute to the happiness neither of our children, nor of ours. Sometimes what we do hurts and we would love to erase it, if possible. I know parents who hold their feeling of guilt for years as the last thing on Earth we want is to harm our children.
Let’s try to look at those moments through words of Marshall Rosenberg, an American psychologist who developed NVC (Nonviolent Communication):
“Every moment each human being is doing the best we know at that moment to meet our needs.”
For clarity, we don’t justify any kind of violence used against children or anyone else. Here you can read an example of one mother recalled by Kirsten Kristensen, family therapist and Certified Trainer of CNVC, to see what we mean.
“Talking about parenting I would like to share an experience I had some years ago working as a family therapist. I had a mother coming to me who was sent by her doctor who thought she needed someone to speak with more than she needed medicine. She was from this kind of family who had been in trouble when she grew up – children were taken from home and placed in foster homes. She had now a little baby of half a year and she really hoped to keep this child. She wished that it was not taken away from her by the municipality, by the authorities. She had a bigger son who was sixteen and he had been taken away. And now again she had a child and she really hoped to keep it.
She was talking with me about how she can improve her abilities to be a parent. That was my job to work with her around this. She gave me an example of what she had done with her first child that she didn’t like. So we were using her experience from the first child to learn from to be a more able parent with the second child.
She described that one day he was screaming and being what we could call “difficult”. She took him, put him in the hallway, closed the door and then she sat down in her armchair. The armchair was in position so she could see the door. And she could hear him crying and she could see his small fingers trying to come under the door, in this little opening under the door.
She was just sitting there and feeling so bad about herself for not being able to open the door and take that child into her arms. And she just knew, or thought she knew, that “if I take the child now when I’m so frustrated, I’ll throw him out of the window”. And when I looked together with her at what a wonderful act she had done when she kept sitting there and not opening the door, that she was actually protecting the child from herself. And of course protecting herself also from doing a violent act to her little baby.
In that moment she started seeing that she has an impulse in her that is actually to care and protect instead of thinking about herself as not being able to care (“I was not able to care, I couldn’t open the door and take the child…”). No, she couldn’t, but she could do something very important – she noticed her own inner state and she kept sitting till it was over. She calmed down after some time, maybe half an hour, was able to get up, open the door and take the child in her arms.
For her to discover that she had the beautiful impulse of sitting there and not opening the door was changing her whole understanding of herself and helped her access parenting resources, to see herself in a different light. That was a beautiful shift.”
Free from a guilt trip
If we lived in the best of the worlds, maybe this mother would take some cleansing breath and have support from people who care about her. She would be able to approach her child with loving kindness saying “Of course you want to be safe with your Mamma” and hold the baby in her arms as long as the baby needs. At the same time in the world of this Mamma the best she could do was to withdraw and leave her baby cry to protect him from what she was scared she could do.
If you are holding guilt because you did something you strongly regret: think why you did it – what needs of yours were you trying to meet? (The list of needs is available for free on our online platform HERE). Check if some parts of you can free you from the guilt trip? At least a bit…
About the authors:
Trainer of Empathic Communication, Coach, eduScrum Trainer, an academic teacher
I am CNVC Certified Trainer supporting families, schools, business and organizations, through workshops, lectures or individually. The way we communicate has an impact on our personal and professional relations. I support people in leveraging the quality of them so they can enjoy more honesty and empathy. I also facilitate systemic transformation through Nonviolent Communication, neurobiology, and 3d-mapping inspired by and following the teachings of Sarah Peyton being in a constant awe how much healing her work brings. The first time when I heard the words of Marshall Rosenberg „Connect before correct” I imagined how would the world look like if we could remember them more often. What I do is rooted in that dream. I have finished postgraduate studies in Leadership in Education, Nonviolent Communication according to Marshall Rosenberg and Train the Trainer of Nonviolent Communication studies, at Collegium Civitas in Warsaw, Poland. I have also finished Business and Life Coaching at the School of Empathic Trainers in Warsaw. I am a mother of a teenage boy who is my source of love and wisdom. Websites: www.paulinaorbitowska.pl, www.widzeczlowieka.pl, www.eduscrum.info
Kirsten is a family therapist, mediator and certified trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication, through which she has led Nonviolent Communication trainings in Europe, Asia and the Americas. For 25 years, Kirsten has devoted her working life to supporting others in personal development. Her passion is to contribute to the personal development and healing that enables people to move closer to conflicts and to grow the relational competencies that support social change work. She enjoys working with body, mind and energy consciousness that leads to connection beyond words. People who experience Kirsten’s training and facilitation often express enjoyment of how she models what she teaches with a drizzle of humor.
In my work with families, I integrate the family dynamic understanding that I gained from my education as a Family Therapist by the Kempler Institute in Denmark.