Breaking the Cycle of Toxic Parenting – How to Silence Old Toxic Messages for Good

Toxic Parents: Breaking the Cycle and Messages of Toxic Parenting

One of the toughest things about parenting is that the results aren’t always obvious. If we use the immediate behaviour of our children as a measure of how we’re doing as parents, there will be days that we could rightly swan around with the only thing in need of adjustment being the tilt of our crown. Then there are the other days – the ones that could see us crushed by the rawness and spectacular chaos of it all. This is the messy nature of raising beautiful small humans into thriving big ones. 

The messages we learn as children are powerful. Part of the reason for this is that these messages are planted before we discover our capacity to challenge and reject them. If you were raised by toxic parents, you would understand the enduring scrape of these messages, and their lasting influence on behaviour. One of the legacies of toxic parents is another generation of toxic parents. But, there is something else they can leave – an opportunity to rise above all of it and parent in ways that are more open, more informed, more loving and richer for the wisdom and insight that is fuelled by your history.

There are two ways that our own history can have an influence. The first is to repeat what we have been exposed to. The second is to drive us to push hard against it, and do things in a completely different way. You don’t have to know what that way will look like. The detail is unimportant. What’s important is the commitment to breaking the cycle. 

Stopping the messages that come from toxic parents.

Here are some of the common messages that become embedded by toxic parents, and new ways to think about them. 

The Old Message:

I don’t know what a good parent looks like. I’m ruining my kids.

The Truth:

Knowing what a good parent is NOT is as powerful as knowing what a good parent is.

You might not have a model of good parenting to guide you, but you know what good parenting is not – it’s not stingy, it’s not cruel and above all else it’s not perfect. Let your internal compass steer you – it’s that thing that wrestles with you when you wish you could have done something better. Parenting takes shape as we go. The greatest wisdom is contained within experience. The greatest parents will be those who are open to those experiences, not the ones who believe with everything in them that there is nothing more for them to know. 

The Old Message.

You have to be ‘good’ to be loveable.

The Truth:

Nobody is always good. But you are always good enough.

Nobody is always good. We humans come with frayed edges, flaws, tempers and vast imperfections, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be brave, loving, nurturing, life-giving, rich, warm and wonderful to be around. The ones you love the most can at times feel like the most annoying, demanding disappointing people on the planet. You will feel like that to them sometimes too. All of us will make plenty of mistakes. It’s naïve to think otherwise.

Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on your flaws as they will become the things that steer your mood, your relationships and the way you see yourself. Own your own goodness – your wisdom, your courage, your fight for something better for you and everyone connected to you. You are ending a legacy of pain and toxicity and giving the generations that come after you an opportunity for a depth of love and nurturing that will be richer because of you.  

The Old Message:

Arguing leads to trouble. It’s easier to agree.

The Truth:

Disagreements are normal and healthy.

Healthy relationships have room for independence of thought and feeling. The key is finding a healthy way to express and experiment with that independence. Love does not require compliance or submission and in strong, nurturing relationships, difference is not just tolerated, but embraced.  When you were small, you may have been punished for disagreeing, but you are not small and powerless anymore. See your environment for what it is, and realise your capacity to influence it.  

The Old Message:

Kids should be seen and not heard.

I should be seen and not heard.

The Truth:

All of us have a voice, and it’s an important one. 

All of us have something unique and important to put into the world that wouldn’t be there otherwise and the only way to do this is to allow ourselves to be seen and heard. Nurture this in your kids by encouraging them to ask for what they need. Ask for their opinions and their thoughts and let your limits be around the way they speak, not around what they say. This doesn’t mean that you will always agree with their point of view. It means that you respect their right to have one. There will come a time, most likely in the thick of adolescence, when you will want your kids to be able to think independently of the pack. They will learn how to do this, and the strength and value in this, through their relationship with you. 

The Old Message:

Kids should do as they’re told.

The New learning:

You are nurturing assertiveness, self-respect and independence of mind.

A child that says ‘no’ is getting beautifully acquainted with one of the most important words on the planet. Of course, its sound would be all the more sweeter if it wasn’t fired at us with military precision, but it is a word that we want them to know well, and to feel confident and strong about using. We don’t want to train the ‘no’ out of our children. Whenever you hear it (which I know will be often at mind-blowingly inconvenient times) know that your small human is experimenting with setting and protecting his or her own boundaries. It will be an experiment that will take time to master, and that’s okay.

The Old Message:

What I want doesn’t matter.

The Truth:

You matter. Your needs matter. 

One of the most damaging lessons that unhealthy families teach is that the needs of the child aren’t important. They will have various ways of doing this, including criticism, judgement, put-downs and neglect. Eventually, the learning is that there is no point in having needs as they won’t be responded to anyway. The depression of needs will, quite literally, lead to depression and a malnourished self. We all have needs and we all need to be in an environment that is supportive of those needs. You matter and what is important to you matters. It matters not just for you, but for the people connected to you. It is difficult to thrive when the things that are important to you are being crushed.

The Old Message:

It’s discipline, and all kids need it.

The Truth:

If it hurts or diminishes, it’s not discipline. It’s ugly, and it’s useless.

Discipline comes from the word disciple, as in ‘to teach’. Discipline was never meant to be about punishment for the sake of punishment or jumping on everything they get wrong. In toxic families, children learn to brace, ready for the next ‘gotcha’ that is often impossible to see coming. When we pull them up too harshly for everything they get wrong, the environment feels fragile. The need for control escalates, because of what can come out of nowhere. When they get it wrong, this is an important opportunity to let them see that even when they aren’t perfect, they’re still okay, and so is getting it wrong sometimes. Influence will always be more far-reaching than control. Influence comes from being someone they want to listen to, rather than being someone they are scared of. Don’t let punishment fill the gap when you don’t know what else to do. Be okay with asking for space and time. ‘I am not happy with the way you hurt your sister. I need to think about what happens next.’ Alternatively, involve them in the process. ‘You have really hurt her feelings by calling her names. What do you think should happen next?’

The Old Message:

Kids need to control themselves.

The Truth:    

All feelings are important, so is expressing them.

Children have an important job to do in relation to their emotions, and that is to get to understand them, and learn how to best deal with them. That isn’t going to happen if they aren’t given the space to feel all of their feelings, even the difficult ones. Anger, sadness, jealousy, spite – they are all important. The key is to guide them and for that to happen, children need to be able to experiment with their emotions, even the messiest ones. We give them something wonderful when we give them a safe, non-judgemental space to feel, and to experiment with how to manage their emotions, without being managed by them.

The Old Message:

I have absolutely no control over my life, the people around me or what they do to me.

The Truth:

You are powerful and can shape the world around you in a way that works for you.

In toxic families, control and power are owned completely by the toxic people. Children quickly learn that they are victims of their environment and that they have no option but to surrender and be barreled along by whatever or whoever is around them. 

Realise that things have changed and slowly experiment with influencing the environment around you. When you decide, your children will follow. They might not follow straight away – you’re doing something different and they need time to adjust – but eventually they will realise that you are the one in control. That doesn’t mean they won’t push against you sometimes. They’re human and they have separate needs to yours and sometimes these will clash. Let their resistance be the evidence that they feel safe enough to give voice to their needs, and that you are creating something different and more nurturing than the toxic environment your parents created for you. 

The Old Message:

When they misbehave it’s my fault. Everything is my fault.

The Truth:

Their growth is theirs. You can’t do it for them. 

Without a doubt, toxic parents who are negligent, indifferent, uninvolved and cruel, will have a big chance of ruining children, but if you’re open to being the best parent you can be, you’re not going to be one of those. Of course we all have days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months when our parenting isn’t great, but we are all a work in progress. The greatest opportunities for learning can happen in those vastly messy moments that have us exhausted, bewildered and wondering if we’ll ever be ‘good enough’. Here’s the thing – good enough parents are great ones. Children need to find their edges. They need to scrape against ours. They need to experiment with boundaries, with ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and with feelings that can feel ugly at times. They need to know that mistakes are okay and that even the people we love will disappoint from time to time. As parents one of the best things we can learn – for the small humans in our lives and for ourselves, is to be okay with the mess. It there are those around you who judge and criticise and who wallow smugly at the glorious sight of your imperfections, let them. They will have imperfections of their own. Perfect people don’t exist – it’s just that their flaws will be different to yours, or perhaps a little more hidden (to them at least).

Making the difference.

The key to doing things in a healthier way is to realise when old learnings are triggering the repeat of old patterns. These responses will be so automatic that you won’t even realise they are there.

You will likely thoughts or memories or muscle memories in your body that cause you to freeze or become stressed or anxious in response to certain things. Notice your body and the thoughts and the feelings you are feeling. Are they familiar? Are they useful? What are the memories connected to this?

Now, look for the differences between then and now. You are in a new environment now, with different people to the ones you grew up with. When it comes to the automatic behaviour that no longer feels right, it is possible that your mind and your body are reacting in an old way to a new environment. You may be responding to new situations as though they are old, familiar ones – possibly when you were when you were  powerless, helpless and small. Things are different now and it will make a difference if you can consciously notice how.

Notice the physical differences in the space around you. You’re not little in someone else’s space anymore. You are strong, and capable and this space is yours. You get to decide how you react. 

Then, notice how you are holding yourself in your body. The body remembers and it’s likely that if you were taught to be small when you were younger, or if you learned to be invisible or diminished, that is how you will hold yourself in the world.

If you are trying to respond differently, start by changing your physical presence. This will often be easier than changing the way you think or the way you feel. Thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all related so a change in one, such as physical presence, will often lead to a change in the others. Try standing taller and stronger. You can take up as much space as feels okay. It might feel unfamiliar and it might feel awkward, but experiment with it. When you catch yourself folding or scrunching or pulling away, for example, try expanding and acting as though you have the right to be here and the right to be heard, because you do. Similarly, if you feel as though you are responding too aggressively, try holding stroking your arm affectionately before you react. It will be more difficult to react aggressively, when you are feeling nurtured.

Once you feel more in control, you will have less out of control responses. Have your anchor words. ‘Things are different now. I’m okay,’ or ‘I have a right to be here now. I’m okay.’ It might take some work to find what fits, but keep going until it feels right. Find the words that can make you feel stronger just by thinking them.

None of this will come easily or quickly. The feelings and triggers have been there for a while and they will take a while to fade, but everything you do will make a difference. 

Being human is a messy business but in the mess is often where the magic lives. That’s one of the beautiful things about being human – we all get to do it in our own way.


Carol P

Love this. I found it while witnessing an actual vicious cycle my husband and I go through just asking our preteen to be outside and active and contribute to the family by cleaning our yard. I googled how to get out of this cycle we ourselves perpetrated, and it took me right away to your website. I am so grateful; everything you said here validates my hunches on why and how my husband I easily find ourselves in this same toxic cycle.


I have one son who is now 20 and I was a great mother when he was younger and I avoided the toxic mothering as my mom had treated me. But as my child reached teenage yrs and I came into perimenopause I changed and became my mother and my son and his wife are living back with me and I am treating him the same way my mom treated me. I make him feel inadequate and I guilt trip him.. why did It start so late in life and I recognize it and am trying to change my behavior. I want the closeness we had when he was younger and not push him away.. we have talked about this and I have apologized to him and told him I’m working on fixing this. Help

Kathleen M

I am 65 now with a grown up daughter and suffer from chronic anxiety and depression and frequent suicidal thoughts. I have struggled with this all of my life having been destroyed by a controlling, aggressive and abusive mother. have been prescribed drugs for many years and hospitalised several times for mental problems. Spend every day struggling to heal myself with meditation, being with good people etc. My sister is the same as my mother. Recently I have taken the decision to sever links with both of them. My sleep is a little better as a result but I am plagued with guilt about doing this. It was do or die though but still, I struggle.

just too tired

I was raised in a toxic family and I am trying to over come it. I have three children 6, 4 and 2. My day starts at five thirty am, I am a farmers wife and stay at home mom we grow all our own food and I am tired. With the first two i did well but with everything going on i find myself reverting to my first teachings and I am depressed now for being a failure which isn’t helping anyone. My father is trying to convince me I should let him live with us and i feel guilty but I know it will only benefit him and take from my kids, husband and I. I want to do things right but I am just too tired. Did I mention we are in the process of moving and that i am divided between two homes. How do I overcome my impulses to be angry, violent and critize while I am sleep deprived and stressed? Do you have some go to strategies? i need help.

Hey Sigmund

Gosh I can hear how exhausted you are! First, about your father moving in with you. You have lived with him before. You have grown up with him. Do you want to expose your kids to that? You have every right to say no. Your obligation is not to him but to your children and your husband and yourself. Of course you feel guilty – that’s part of the process, but when you say yes to something you don’t want (your father) you are saying no to something you do care for (your children). We all have our limits and you have reached yours. Now it’s time to treat yourself with love and respect – nobody else can do that for you. You can love your father AND say no. Loving someone was never meant to mean giving them everything they want. Here is an article that might help. You may have read it but just in case –
In relation to toxic patterns with your kids, it’s an ongoing process. The more stretched you are, the more you will return to the behaviours that are easy and familiar – another reason to say no to your father.

What you’re doing is hard and it’s no wonder you’re tired. Much love and strength to you.


Thank you for this article. My mom was a very angry, controlling person. She did a lot of things wonderfully and raised us to be good people. But she always had to be in control, and always lost her temper–no matter how small the perceived offense was. Intellectually I know she loves me, but I have a had time feeling it in my heart. I don’t want this experience to be a part of my son’s life, so I try to be a more calm parent. But it is SO difficult to do that, period–and even more so with a strongwilled child! I want to raise a young man who is gentle and respectful of others. It’s hard to see to the future, past the toddler tantrums and meltdowns.

Hey Sigmund

Steph I completely understand how difficult the toddler years can be. Hang in there! I love that you are so open to doing things differently. If you focus on your little man growing up to be gentle and respectful, that is where you will lead him. Your son won’t have his adult brain until his mid 20s, so there is plenty of time for him to learn. Embrace his strong will – you will appreciate it when he is older and in positions that he needs to think differently to the pack. It’s just not much fun when you’re the parent on the end of it! In the meantime, this article might be helpful for you. It can be useful to know when the things they do that are hard to deal with, are actually normal (Phew! It’s Normal – An Age by Age Guide for What to Expect From Kids and Teens Keep doing what you’re doing though. It sounds as though your son is in wonderful hands.

Janoel Liddy

Thanks so much for your reassuring and inspiring article! I work with young people and their parents in sexuality education, and all of our work comes back to the central theme of being kind to yourself. So then you can care for others!

That’s why I believe you always need to work with the parents, too, not just the young people – we learn how to live our life from the way we experience it. So much of that experience comes from our families, not just a workshop or a few classes at school; these sessions, like your article, are there to simply open up the conversation for a more nurturing, loving way to live – connecting to yourself, others and our land.

Thanks again!

Hey Sigmund

Thanks Janoel. It sounds like important work you’re doing. I absolutely agree with you. Parents are so powerful and their presence during therapy and sessions like yours can be vital. They are so important.


Thank you so much for this article! I am the proud mother of two, soon three boys and I have been trying to break the vicious toxic inheritance I got for an education for five years now. It is such tiring to concentrate on that all important question on an everyday basis. It takes me so much energy to reconsider every aspect of parenting and work on it so that I can offer my children something positive and healthy. To me it sometimes look like I have been working on an incredibly huge puzzle.
Your article is helping me not to feel alone in this battle too, for it is a battle and I do feel like I am a warrior. It helps to see that someone understands. Support is what I need. Thank you.

Hey Sigmund

Your so welcome Maud. I really do understand how exhausting it can be to break a toxic pattern. It’s exhausting and it takes courage and strength – and you’re doing it. You are extraordinary and your boys will grow up to be wonderful young men because of the decisions you are making.


What about parent using child as confidante? Back in 60s when things were really different, used as alibi and confidante to keep secret string of affairs which I had to accompany her some of time, not tell father. This has had lifelong terrible effect and damaged our relationship as well as rearing its ugly head now with sibling. Before people use children in this way must consider cost of keeping secrets they now are wrong but are powerless to do anything about from parent.


Lovely. I only knew what I did not want to do while raising my sons. I didn’t have a lot of positive to draw from. But I know it was not either parents fault. They did as they were taught, as they had been treated and never questioned it. They always did their best but emotionally, for me, it was not enough. A roof over your head, food to eat and clothes to wear was always a given. They were wonderful people. We just sometimes need more.

Thank you for your columns. I always look forward to reading and learning from them.

Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome Donna. It sounds as though your parents did the very best with what they had. Thankfully we know a lot more now about the things that work and the things that don’t when it comes to raising kids. Knowing what you don’t want is so powerful. Your boys are lucky to have you.

sara s

Precisely! I believe in the biopsychosocial approach to understanding behavior. A person is born with a repertoire. Parents can do the best they CAN based on a repertoire. However, in my case, I became a parent at 40. I surrounded myself with a group of amazing professionals! Why? Because I was well aware of my repertoire, my generic disposition, and how my developmental stages could hinder my ability to be a good parent. I truly appreciate the theories of positive psychology, self-actualization, mindfulness, efficacy, CBT, and my career choice ABA. I was born with the skills to thrive in the face of adversity. Today, I’m blessed to be open-minded, willing, and am encompassed by an extraordinary support system. I think good parenting is contingent upon a person’s willingness to practice remaining present for his or her child… And yes… It’s a practice that fosters a child’s emotional intelligence and autonomy, while learning about one’s self through affirmation, acts of altruism, and shaping one’s attitude. Thank you for this post and thread! Profound! Warmest regards-Sara


I absolutely love this post as well as the comment. It’s the “unbeautiful truth” and the worst part is…an adults justification when they actually demonstrate these traits and wholeheartedly believe in the old way of thinking or not thinking rationally I should say, the ultimate worse part is…there’s no stopping them unless they truly believe a problem exists or one big enough for it to need changed fixing. Unless of course, you’re a “dragon slayer!”


A healing memory. Moved back to the states after living abroad. Opened clothing barrell from storage. Styles had really changed. There were these hideous shoes mom insisted I wear for flat feet like her, and another pair in a larger size to grow into. Except I didn’t wind up with big feet; or flat feet for that matter. Only bullied for ugly shoes. I tried them on and the toes curled up like Bozo, the clown. We laughed until we cried and mom apologized. There were other clothes in the moving barrel- all outdated, unsuitable, and not us. We tried them all on and it was hysterically funny. Lesson learned. Went to lunch and the mall. Fun time.


Thank you so much for this. I am the first generation attempting to overcome the sexual abuse, alcoholism, and borderline personality disorder (undiagnosed) of my parents. Needless to say, it’s an absolute uphill battle, and I need all the help I can get to “turn the generational tides” before me. Due to many years of excruciatingly hard work, I have created a happy, healthy marriage and 3 beautiful children – ages 5, 8, & 10. I’m so grateful I’ve found an amazing therapist and excellent tools like this newsletter. Thank you so very much – it’s nice to be reminded I’m not alone!

Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome Brett. You are doing a remarkable and wonderful thing – you are ending a legacy of pain and trauma and creating something for your gorgeous family that wasn’t there before you. I know how incredibly difficult this is. It takes guts, wisdom and the fight of a warrior – and you’re doing it. Thank you for sharing your story. There is so much power in ‘me too’ and you never know whose path will change by hearing the proof that you have given that overcoming a toxic history is absolutely possible. You are so not alone!


I was a sexually abused child with a very toxic father and a weak mother. We took our beatings. Which I learned to be invisible to stay out of his sight. I did everything the right way. I graduated high school. I worked full time at 17. I did smoke marijuana to “escape” for a few years. I married at 21 to a toxic man for 25 years. I had 4 children within that marriage, I tried to care for them, keep house perfectly and cook meals. I was not given money without good reason. He liked controlling us like that. We did divorce finally which was brutal as I divorced him. I now think the kids have been poisoned against me in a lot of ways. It just kills me, they were everything to me! It’s like he’s trying to get to me through them. Pathetic to use your own children as pawns. I am re- married to a good man that appreciates me. But the kids have their issues to deal with. I just pray for strength and understanding. My mother and I just buried my father earlier this month. She doesn’t want to remember anything bad about him. I need to overcome these demons before I’m eaten alive!

Mike Mckay

Another aspect of this is self centred parenting which is harder to spot as the person will invariably justify what they want as being best for their child but its just as toxic

It should also be noted that the main problem with many aspects of parenting is that you wont see the harm you have done until your child grows up, and one or two decades later starts to do the same things they saw as a child

So where a parent rarely spends time resolving problems or disagreements in their relationships the child never learns to do so either, where a parent never weathers tougher times with their partner but merely extricates themselves from a relationship the moment its not all fluffy clouds and rainbows the child learns to copy that behaviour too and so on

But the effects are rarely visible until many many years afterwards

Children see what their parents behaviour is from a very early age and absorb it subconsciously and without question for the early part of their lives running a high risk of copying it when they themselves start to have relationships and perpetuating the habits onto their own children

But where someone genuinely believes their selfish choices are also best for their child they wont just be incapable of fixing the problems but will even be incapable of seeing there is one


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Sometimes needs will come into being like falling stars - gently fading in and fading out. Sometimes they will happen like meteors - crashing through the air with force and fury. But they won’t always look like needs. Often they will look like big, unreachable, unfathomable behaviour. 

If needs and feelings are too big for words, they will speak through behaviour. Behaviour is the language of needs and feelings, and it is always a call for us to come closer. Big feelings happen as a way to recruit support to help carry an emotional load that feels too big for our kids and teens. We can help with this load by being a strong, calm, loving presence, and making space for that feeling or need to be ‘heard’. 

When big behaviour or big feelings are happening, whenever you can be curious about the need behind it. There will always be a valid one. Meet them where they without needing them to be different. Breathe, validate, and be with, and you don’t need to do more than that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days and some things are rubbish, and that sometimes those days and things last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. 

But the learning comes from experience. They can’t learn to manage big feelings unless they have big feelings. They can’t learn to read the needs behind their feelings if they don’t have the space to let those big feelings come back to small enough so the needs behind them can step forward. 

When their world has spikes, and when we give them a soft space to ‘be’, we ventilate their world. We help them find room for their out breath, and for influence, and for their wisdom to grow from their experiences and ours. In the end we have no choice. They will always be stronger and bigger and wiser and braver when they are with you, than when they are without. It’s just how it is.♥️
When kids or teens have big feelings, what they need more than anything is our strong, safe, loving presence. In those moments, it’s less about what we do in response to those big feelings, and more about who we are. Think of this like providing a shelter and gentle guidance for their distressed nervous system to help it find its way home, back to calm. 

Big feelings are the way the brain calls for support. It’s as though it’s saying, ‘This emotional load is too big for me to carry on my own. Can you help me carry it?’ 

Every time we meet them where they are, with a calm loving presence, we help those big feelings back to small enough. We help them carry the emotional load and build the emotional (neural) muscle for them to eventually be able to do it on their own. We strengthen the neural pathways between big feelings and calm, over and over, until that pathway is so clear and so strong, they can walk it on their own. 

Big beautiful neural pathways will let them do big, beautiful things - courage, resilience, independence, self regulation. Those pathways are only built through experience, so before children and teens can do any of this on their own, they’ll have to walk the pathway plenty of times with a strong, calm loving adult. Self-regulation only comes from many experiences of co-regulation. 

When they are calm and connected to us, then we can have the conversations that are growthful for them - ‘Can you help me understand what happened?’ ‘What can help you so this differently next time?’ ‘How can you put things right? Do you need my help to do that?’ We grow them by ‘doing with’ them♥️
Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare

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