End Ritual Abuse The Website of Ellen P. Lacter, Ph.D.

Have We (Us Grown-ups) Been Naughty or Nice?


Our Hopes for Our Children

We wish our childhoods were filled with love and happy memories. But for many people, maybe most, our childhoods were something less. Perhaps our parents were harsh and overly critical. Perhaps we were abused in unthinkable ways.

Now we have our own children. Will we make our children feel the way we felt growing up? Or will we be able to give them more love and peace than we ever got? And if we want them to have such joy, will we know how to make it so?

Here are Eight Tips that may Help.

1. Children often do not know how to behave in situations until we teach them. When they do something that we need to correct, it works best to gently take them aside and quietly explain how to act in that situation and why. This makes them feel like we are team players and that we believe that they want to do their best. When we misinterpret their behavior as “bad,” ill-mannered, or thoughtless, we often get angry and scold them in front of others. Then, they feel hurt, misunderstood, afraid, embarrassed and ashamed. This also weakens the parent-child bond. The strongest incentive for good behavior in children is the wish to please  parents whom they believe love them.

2. Children are often in a trance (Theta-brain-waves) while playing with toys, video-games, shooting hoops, walking, thinking, etc. They are absorbed, not ignoring us. It takes a minute for us to bring them back to earth. Breathe!

3. Children have much less control than adults over their impulses. When adults feel like getting angry, interrupting, or even running around, we can stop ourselves before we do it. Children are the opposite. They often act before they can stop themselves. This is especially true with children who have an active temperament, children with processing difficulties, and children who have suffered trauma. It is important to remember that they are not being bad; they are just being kids. A gentle reminder or a cool-down time are good approaches. When we become angry at them or shame them, they often become more impulsive due to pent-up hurt and anger.

4. When we believe that our children need a consequence for poor behavior, the most effective teaching tool is take something away that very same day, like an activity, TV time, dessert, or they can go to bed early. Tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start. Being able to start anew tomorrow helps them feel hopeful and supported. When we extend consequences out for many days or weeks, children feel defeated and unloved. They fear that they will never be able to be good enough to get back in our good graces. Their motivation to try to do better is actually decreased, as is our bond to them.

5. When children become frightened, sad, or angry, it helps to take a few moments to express compassion before offering advice. Even adults need to “feel felt” when upset before we can think clearly and apply reason.

6. We all get angry. It is part of being human. However, adults have a capacity to self-reflect about our anger and to choose other options.

We can ask ourselves: Did I feel afraid, unsafe, unloved, unwanted, or angry as a child? Am I unintentionally treating my child in ways that made me feel hurt and misunderstood? Did I feel like my parents thought I was good, smart, and lovable? Or did they make me feel I was bad, dumb, and unworthy of love? Do I sometimes release on my child the anger that I felt for my parents when they treated me harshly? Are my children, in turn, releasing their anger on their siblings and friends?

7. Make a plan for the generations to come. The love I give my children now is love they will have to give my grandchildren in years to come. The anger I discharge on my children now is anger they will release on my grandchildren in years to come. It works pretty mathematically. Love in = love out. Anger in = anger out. Do I want to pass the pain from my own childhood to the next generation? Or do I want to create something different for the generations to come? The love and kindness I give my children now are the water and sunlight that will grow my family tree to be majestic, a safe haven and bountiful with fruit.

8. Have fun together! Play a game. Go for a walk. Be silly. Laugh. Read to your children. Cuddle with them. Go out for ice cream. These are the things that build bonds and memories that will sustain you and your children for a lifetime and that your children will pass on to your grandchildren.

Merry Christmas to You and Yours.

May Your New Year be Filled with Love and Peace.

End Ritual Abuse The Website of Ellen P. Lacter, Ph.D.

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