Updated: Nov 11, 2022
Bonjour, mon ami!
When we grow up and start creating families of our own, we must learn to parent ourselves. Raising small children stirs up a lot of old emotions that we forget we ever had. Painful memories and trauma can bubble up caused by Deja Vu moments. But we cannot ignore these feelings as they come because if we do, then we may repeat history. Therefore, we have to investigate why we react a certain way when stress occurs (#InvestigateYourFeelings). Some of our reactions can be so automatic, like they were hard-coded into our psyche. It's brainwash, conditioning, upbringing, culture, all the inputs that are thrown at us to consume, mold and shape us as people.
I have had to learn how to parent myself as I learn how to parent my children. They have components of them that are very similar to who I am as a person. They are not me, but they are like me. To identify what motivates them, I first have to find what motivates me.
For example, I was never one to just listen to orders being barked out at me like I was some kind of dog. I've never subscribed to "children should be seen and not heard." My children are the same way. Therefore, if I want to motivate them to move to the next activity, I usually have to explain to them the rationale behind why we must get up, move on, hustle, etc. Explanation on their level makes children feel like you are including them and treating them as a full person, because they are full people. When I was growing up, children were treated as second-class citizens (#DoAsYourTold, #BeSeenNotHeard). This is a habit I have mostly broken in my household, but I am not perfect. I am still working on not defaulting to what I grew up with, when I'm tired and stressed.
If the explaining doesn't work, then I highlight the perks of making the change. Usually, that's enough to motivate them when I break it down in their language and make it appealing (#Inception). I convince them that they want the same things because they often do. You want to be smart, read this book with me. You want to be big and strong, run outside on the playground with me. You want to have friends, be social and learn how to navigate groups of people with me. I will teach you (#ComeWithMe).
And if all of that doesn't work, good old fashion bribing works just fine as well. You want to know why? Because treating yourself to an award for accomplishing something you didn't want to do, or something really difficult, is sometimes the only motivator (#BeYourOwnCheerleader). All of this teaches them that if you want something like a treat, you must to work for it (#YouBetterWorkBitch).
Either way, I am teaching them how to motivate themselves and how to talk to themselves on the inside. I am teaching my children how to parent themselves, when no one is there to motivate them. I'm giving them the language, the thought process, and the options for reward: you'll feel accomplished, you get to share the fun outputs of your work, there is a nice treat for you at the end if you can push yourself to the finish line. In this process, I am also teaching them how to identify their limits and when to say, "no, that's enough for me today." These are great life skills -- learning when to push oneself vs. learning when to say "that's enough."
As parents, we often forget to treat ourselves well. We accidentally fall into all work and no play mode because we are (#TheAdultsInTheRoom) and (#Adulting) fucking sucks. Because (#Adulting) fucking sucks, we need to find little motivators to keep it moving so that we don't implode. We have to be here for these children.
I've had to reteach myself to parent myself. What I've learned is that I'm not very kind to myself on the inside. The words I use to motivate me inside are completely different than the words I use to motivate my children. When I realized how harsh I was being toward myself, I changed my internal language -- language that I have internalized from the grown-ups in my life who had different ideals about parenthood, language internalized from culture and news, language that is toxic and not my own thinking.
I turned on the parental guidance feature for the chatter in my head (#ParentalGuidanceAdvised). Be kind to yourself, my little joy sprites. Be a good parent to yourself and repair the damage that was done to you so you don't pass that damage on to the next generation. Be kind to yourself to teach your children how to be kind to themselves as well.