Wings to Fly and the Knowledge to Know Better

While watching a CNN interview with Donald Trump and his children recently, I was struck by something. No, not what you would assume one would be struck by when watching Donald Trump. I was struck by a story he told about his brother who died from alcoholism. Trump’s children were on stage with him and they recounted how from the time they were little, their dad would tell them every single morning “no drugs, no alcohol”. When asked why he did this every morning, Trump responded that he was fearful and just wanted to make sure that he didn’t neglect to let his children know where he stood on the subject.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard Donald Trump say he was fearful of anything. Fear in parenting is universal. Why wouldn’t we have fear?

The world seems like such a scary place to send our most precious humans into.

What if we haven’t taught our children everything they need to know?

What if we haven’t said the magic words that will keep them from experimenting with drugs and alcohol?

What if they do know the difference between right and wrong, but the peer pressure is too much?

What if it’s just one time, but that one time is life ending?

What if…

I could go on and on with the “what if’s”, and believe me, I have done so in my head a million times with my son who is embarking on his first year in high school.

I think back to my own childhood. I began to drink and experiment with marijuana at 12 years old. I ran hard and fast for 15 years, not missing a chance to self-medicate. Many parents who have a past of using drugs or alcohol at an early age worry that their children will follow in their footsteps, however, this doesn’t have to be the case. Even parents who chose the right path worry that their children may veer off the path they have laid for them.

But where does “what if” get us? “What if” contains anxiety, lack of control, mindlessness, and irrational thinking. “What if” keeps us in an emotional mind, and prevents us from operating from a wise mind.

As with anything in our lives, we must do our best to prepare, while being mindful that the outcome is out of our control – unless we lock our children in their rooms until they are thirty years old, of course. We MUST learn to trust them and the jobs we have done with them.

Communication is key. Hopefully, you have been building and encouraging communication since your children were small. If not, don’t fear…it is never too late to open that door.

  • Ask open ended questions.
  • Show true interest in their lives.
  • Encourage open conversations about drugs and alcohol.
  • Educate yourself on the fads of today concerning self-medicating.
  • Be honest.
  • Be mindful of the signs, and know where to look for them.

Many of the parents I come in contact with believe that “helicopter parenting” is the way to keep their children out of trouble. They believe that if they hold on tight and shelter their precious beings from the outside world that no harm will come to their children. Unfortunately, many times this behavior results in rebellion. That rebellion can take many forms, and self-medicating is just one of them.

Fear gets us nowhere. Parenting through fear gives us a false sense of control. However, if we stay “in the know” and make an effort to communicate consistently and openly with our children, we can operate with an educated mindset.

They say knowledge is power, and parenting without fear is no different.

Educate yourself on pill parties.

Educate yourself on Molly, Spice, Orange Crush and the like.

Know what a “Syrup Head” is.

Know what “Special K”, “Crank”, and “Triple C” are.

These are the drugs of choice in today’s world. No longer do we just have to think about traditional drugs and alcohol. The world has changed, and we must change with it.

When you were a teen, did you listen to people who don’t seem to know what they are talking about? Did you tune your parents out when they sounded behind the times? Our children are no different than we were at their age.

Be ahead of the game, so you know what to look for and you know how to talk about the dangers, without presenting it in a way that cause your children to tune you out.
When you parent through preparation, communication, and trust, you are parenting the whole child. You are giving them the respect they deserve by coming to them with knowledge, not fear.

Educating your child gives them wings to fly. Make it your goal to have the most educated child in the room when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Then, and only then, can they make the best choice for them.

Remember, knowledge is power. Our children are powerful beings, let’s equip them with wings to fly and trust that we have done our very best job in sending them out into the world.

Mindful Parenting: The Knowledge to Recognize the Problem and the Wisdom to Grow.

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When asked for my parenting fails, I immediately read other contributions. They are all so cute. Easy, no big deal, parenting fails. Parenting fails that most likely won’t have lasting effects, and my inner jerk is telling me, that my parenting fails are much bigger than these, so maybe I shouldn’t share. But here I am…..

From ages 0-6 my son was easy. He wanted to please. He wanted my approval. I was his whole world and he was mine. Our relationship had no bumps. It was easy, flawless, and rewarding at almost every turn.

Then, out of the blue….he developed his own personality. Of course I expected this, what I didn’t expect was my inability to handle the rejection.

He didn’t always want to do what I was asking.

He talked back.

He said no.

He was sarcastic.

He was stubborn.

He had discovered his power.

The calm, controlled parent I had been, had a decision to make. How am I going to handle this new developing personality?

So much of how we respond to our children when angry is from our old story. How did our parents respond when they were angry? Regardless of how we WANT to respond….we have coping skills that come from our childhood. We learn by watching our parents, and just when we least expect it……if we haven’t learned new skills, our parent’s resurface in us when we become parents.

I found myself raising my voice.

I found myself belittling.

I found myself letting my anger control my response.

I found myself reacting…..with no thought.

I had always maintained that I would never lay my hands on my child. I stayed true to this, however, I did the same thing with my tongue. When faced with a lack of control, I became angry. I did my best to control the situation with my words, and tone of voice. My son could see the anger in my face, and feel the lack of control in my words.

I could see the fear in his face.

I could see the cycle continuing.

I could see where this would lead us.

The moment I saw fear in my son’s eyes when he looked at me, will forever be the moment our lives changed.

I realized, I had to learn how to be a parent. I had to learn how to respond instead of react. In the absence of positive role models around anger, I had simply watched and learned. I had no idea this was present in me, until my beautiful child’s face was red and streaming with tears as he looked into the eyes of the person he loved most.

I looked back at him and decided he deserved better…..WE deserved better.

I went all in. Went back to school for my passion, which was counseling, and learned more about myself, which led to healing, growth and skill building.

I apologized to my son, and we started over.

I became a parent who responds, and doesn’t react.

I became a safe place, even when he was naughty.

I became a parent who welcomes mistakes, as they provide opportunities for growth.

I became a role model.

I became a cycle breaker.

Every chance I get, I share my message. Just because you aren’t physically abusive, doesn’t mean you aren’t an abuser. It doesn’t mean you aren’t modeling the wrong skills, but expecting better from your children.

Take the time, to be mindful of who you are and who you come from. Are you continuing cycles? Are you reacting when you feel out of control? Be mindful of the words you are using with your children. It’s the words that leave a lasting impression.

Today, my 13 year old son and I enjoy an extremely close relationship. He has never mentioned how I used to respond, and when asked, he doesn’t seem to remember. I am lucky. His memories are full of a mom who is safe and as far as he is concerned, always has been. I am much harder on myself, but as a work in progress, I continue to be mindful of my emotions, and thoughts before words come out of my mouth.

If you see yourself in my story, I encourage you to simply say it out loud to yourself and expect better of YOU. It’s a process, and involves skill building and mindfulness. It is never too late to break cycles.

I am sharing what I’ve learned in my community at www.facebook.com/groundedone/ and www.groundedblog.com

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we’re all in this together.