Every thoughtful parent eventually realizes that s/he is unqualified for the job of parenting. You struggle to instill your values, protect your child from harm, and provide her with the tools necessary to become healthy and successful. Your child resists your teachings and behaves in ways that you find maddeningly opposite to what you want. She may whine and complain, or be slow, or have temper tantrums, or won’t eat what you make them, or a million other frustrating behaviors. Why? What are you doing wrong?
You have a problem if you see this as a problem when it is really an opportunity.
You are on a journey with your child of exploration, about the world, about love and pain, about connection and honesty, and most of all about healing and the most important aspects of this journey are mostly unconscious. As a parent, you’ll experience the heights of love and the depths of pain and a lot of frustrating, funny, overwhelming, depressing, scary and confusing events in between. Understanding this journey consciously will enable you and your child to experience more love, joy, and connection.
Your child was born to grow you up just as much as you will raise your child. You and your child are engaged in a complex dynamic that will challenge everything about you that is not in alignment with love and the truth about who you are. Unconsciously, your child will find everything that you dislike about yourself, every limiting belief, every fear, and he will lean into that disharmony. This is called “pushing your buttons”, and nobody can do that better than your child.
The way this works is through a cycle of attraction, trauma and re-traumatization. First, let’s understand trauma. Everyone has it, and your fears and limiting beliefs that unconsciously guide you through life are driven by your trauma. Let’s explore your trauma through this example:
Imagine that you are 3 years old and go to the refrigerator to get some juice. You pull out the juice container but it’s heavy and you are small, and it slips from your hands and spills on the floor. Mom is there immediately, towering over you, and she yells, “Dammit! Look at the mess you made! Why didn’t you ask for help?! Just go, get out of the way so I can clean this mess you made!”
For you as a 3-year-old, this is a completely overwhelming event. It’s scary. The best strategy for safety that the body can come up with is to keep very still, though the fight or flight energy is powerful; your heart is hammering in your chest and adrenaline is coursing through your body.
Now, if sometime later, mom or dad hugs you and says, “It’s OK, I love you” and your fight/flight energy comes flooding out in big tears, there is no trauma. It will become a learning experience that confirms that we can make mistakes and those that care about us will still love us. We learn that our loved ones can get angry and yell and still love us.
But if we don’t release the fight/flight energy, the event does become a trauma. Maybe we were told that “boys don’t cry”, or we remember when we had a temper tantrum and got dragged out of a store by our angry mom or dad. We learned that expressing our pent-up energy/emotion can turn our parents against us, so we bury our pain. We will develop beliefs about our self and our world based on this event. In this case, we will learn that it’s not OK to make mistakes, that we aren’t good enough, that we should look to others to do the difficult jobs, and that we are a burden on those we care about.
Trauma is an untruth about who we really are, a limiting belief that says we are less than the Divine love that is our higher self. Because of this misalignment, we unconsciously seek out opportunities for healing. True healing is not a strategy or something discussed; it is an emotional release that is also felt in your body. We must feel the fear/pain/frustration of our trauma in order to heal it. Re-traumatization occurs every time you feel yourself frustrated, angry, sad or afraid because you have experienced something that reminds you of the untruths you carry. Because you can only heal what you feel, a person abused as a child will tend to find a partner as an adult who is abusive, and until healing takes place, will encounter a series of “dead-end” relationships, jobs, health issues, car troubles, and much more that reflects the limiting belief “I don’t get what I want.”
Your child knows this intuitively. That’s why she pushes your buttons. Every time she does something that you feel angry, frustrated, sad or just tense about, you have received a gift from her spirit to you. Much of the time we blame our children for making our life more complicated than necessary (“What do you mean, you can’t find your shoes?” “Stop hitting, right now!”) and yet we never heal what is buried within us. We can only heal what is active within us, brought to the surface…
Your child will keep pushing your buttons until you heal. If you really want your child to stop a frustrating behavior, find what is beneath your button and release the wounded energy there. Your healing is immediately felt by your child, and he will stop his behavior because there is no longer a button there to push.
Your child is “telling” you by her actions that you can let go of what isn’t your truth. Your child acts with Divine wisdom. She is your teacher often at a deeper level than you are hers. So learn your lessons, because if you don’t, you will pass along the legacy of your wounds to her. She loves you enough to share the burden of your pain and limiting beliefs if you persist long enough. Consider where most of your traumas came from.
This is the dance of parenting. With your willingness to be vulnerable, the love that you share with your child will transform your wounds. Be brave and feel so you can heal. And thank your child for the excellent job he/she is doing!
Become wise like a child. Imagine that anything is possible. Be openly enthusiastic about new experiences. Use your whole body to experience play. Feel your anger, sadness, joy and fear intensely and completely, then let go to experience the next moment. Give and receive love with tenderness and innocence. Experience living with so much excitement that you can’t possibly go to bed yet, until you fall down with exhaustion. And then do it all again tomorrow.
You’re connected deeply, at a level even deeper than your emotions
We are engaged in a dynamic of emotions and beliefs with our children, and we can only
Children are not born to us to become copies of us. They are
The old frozen places within you contain all of your limiting beliefs (“I’m not good enough”, “I can’t do what I really am passionate about”, “I can’t be truly happy because it would make others uncomfortable”).
The most empowering thing about parenting is that when we do our healing work, the same healing takes effect in our children. The easiest way to heal a child’s deep wounds is for the parents to heal theirs.
The easiest way to change a child’s behavior is for the parents to heal their emotional wounds. The benefits are immediately shared with the child. Children are so entrained (connected) with their parents that any change in the beliefs/vibration in the adults is instantly received by the child. When the beliefs/vibration change, so do the behaviors. For the parent, this is profoundly empowering and deeply humbling.
My experience and what I see in children is that we sometimes (perhaps always) come into the world with something that we need to work on. For me, it was a deep pain and insecurity that drove an intense anger within me.
That said, the edges are our traumas, which are overwhelming events that create a build-up of “fight or flight” energy that we never release (we freeze). A major trauma could be in the form of sexual abuse, a car accident, surgery, getting lost, or even being left in too warm of a car when we’re very little. And of course, all of the repressive behaviors/beliefs of our parents repress energy within us as children. All of this “stuck” energy has a vibration to it, and it becomes the most powerful driving force in our subconscious, determining who we fall in love with, the kind of work environment we choose, how much money we make, etc.
Yes, as parents we have lots of responsibility towards our children. However, children naturally are inclined to push our “edges”, everything that we have a charge around. This aspect of children naturally assists our own development if we embrace their
Children are incredibly adept at finding and pushing all of your buttons. Why? They could be so much more submissive… but instead, they stubbornly persist in bringing your issues to the surface so that you can look at them and heal.
I always feel warmth, respect and deep appreciation when I hear someone express gratitude for the “harshness of my lessons”. Every painful experience has the gift within it of compassion and connection. And because our emotions are all connected, those who have experienced the greatest depth of sorrow can also experience the greatest of love and joy. Those who hide from the pain also hide from bliss.
Because this is just one small event, it won’t define who we become later in life. If we have many other experiences where we are supported to express our emotions and we are reassured that we are loved no matter what, we’ll grow up with self-confidence, kindness and an open heart. But if we have many similar experiences of overwhelm accompanied by repressed emotion, we may grow up to have low self-esteem, a mediocre job (or a stressful job requiring perfection), and a partner who is critical of us; in short, we’ll never measure up.