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Cycle-Breaking: Being A Good Parent When Yours Were Not

If your childhood was unhappy, this space is dedicated to you today. If you were neglected, unwanted, overlooked, or mistreated and yet you have become a loving, attentive, conscientious parent, hear me clearly: You are a cycle breaking changer of the world. Read on to see why and to be encouraged!

St. Mother Teresa Of Calcutta famously said, "If you want world peace, go home and love your family." Peace in our city, our community, our church, or our world begins when parents set aside their own desires and turn their attention toward the needs of their children. Such selfless and sacrificial parenting is more rare than you may realize. Today, I am writing to you, the adult who did not have selfless parents; you whose childhood was unhappy.

If this was your childhood experience and you have read this far, then I believe you are the kind of parent who already understands the amount of effort this level of devotion to child raising requires. You are willing to put in the time to read and learn about creating a loving family. You want to be better today than you were yesterday and you are willing to reflect on how you can do that. Good for you. You are a cycle breaking changer of the world.

Parents whose own childhood was filled with conflict, neglect, violence, insecurity, and abuse begin raising children with a real disadvantage. We all want the kind of home that I describe in my book as a "Harbor Home" but without this experience in childhood, adults have to figure out how to make it happen with no personal example to follow. All a parent can do under those circumstances is to create their own path to a joyful home.

If you have, or want to. overcome your painful childhood and create a better life for your own child, here are some thoughts and tips for doing this. Please share in the comment section how you have overcome a childhood of neglect or insecurity and created stability and security for your children. Your success story could help someone else.

  1. The Fundamental Shift. Human nature is inherently selfish and self absorbed. This is, in fact, a survival mechanism that we are born with. When we become parents we must deliberately make a change from being the most important person in our own lives and putting our children's needs in that place of importance. I call this "The Fundamental Shift". It is the basic first step to creating a Harbor Home for your child. The parent is the adult whose primary function is to see, respond to, and meet the needs of the child. Do this first, and the rest falls into place more easily.

  2. Self Care Discretion. A big buzz word among parents these days is "self care", and I believe it is a term that can be used and abused to the detriment of children. Parents need adequate rest and some down time each day. In addition to this, parents need encouragement and affirmation and friends for the journey. Please let me encourage you to not allow self care to become self indulgence. Parenting can be exhausting and draining and sometimes we have to power through it. Even with adequate self care you will still have times when you feel overwhelmed and overworked. This is a part of parenting that makes us have to dig deep and find the strength to continue the work. Know that you are stronger than you know. Care for yourself, but remember the fundamental shift.

  3. Mistakes Happen. Even big parenting fails can be overcome with some basic relationship repair. The big one is giving a sincere, heartfelt apology to your children when you know you should. A proper apology has no excuses in it, never negates the pain of the victim, and accepts full responsibility. If you hurt your children, a real apology is in order. Go to the freebie page on my website to find steps to an apology.

  4. Listen. Really listen. Another way to work through challenges is to listen to your children. Really hear what is in their heart. Even if you had to make a tough decision and you had no choice, listen to how that decision made them feel. Sympathize with them. Cast your mind back to your own childhood and empathize with them. Remember how it felt to be small and vulnerable; utterly at the mercy of someone else's decisions. If no one cared how you felt at those times, repair that wound by listening to your child and caring how they feel. You will heal your child and yourself.

  5. Smile! When your child comes in the room or you are seeing each other for the first time in a few hours, smile when you see them. Make your face light up and greet them with joy. Make sure that they know what happiness their lives give you. Say the words that warm their heart. "I miss you when we are not together" "You are the light of my life" "I'm so glad I have you" "What a blessing you are to me" All these phrases will put a light in your child's heart that can't be wiped away with the occasional bad day. It also makes sure that when you have to say strong words of correction they are able to hear them because they know you love them. Positive to negative words need to be in a 10:1 ratio. 10 positive phrases for every one negative.

I praise and honor you, neglected child turned loving parent! You are my hero! You are truly a fine creation. Tell your story in the comments below. I can't wait to hear how you did it.

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