Parenting Skills I: Becoming a 'Different' Parent

“Elisabetta, nobody gets given a training manual when they become parents”, a friend said to me once. I remember smiling as my friend exclaimed the troubling truth. 

“Nobody teaches us how to become parents”, she said, “so where the hell can we look to to learn?”. 

“We look to our own parents”, I replied. My friend was silent for a while and then a long discussion ensued. She was a divorced woman with a 34 year old son, today I am a divorced woman with a 25 year old daughter.

There was, and still is, only one difference between Carmen and I: I got the help, I got educated and I slowly but consistently became a self-aware parent, inside and out. When Stella was 4, I began my journey of self-awakening (you can read more about my experience as a parent becoming more self-aware in my book, Stella's Mum Gets Her Groove Back).

 image by Chema Photo

image by Chema Photo

Carmen is still thriving to be the best mum, as every mum does or at least intends to do in most cases. My mum is no different… I can see and feel that at the age of 79, she still strives to be a true and loving mum. I can also feel her pain and toxic shame for having been the opposite in the past, although she’s not conscious of this.

So, I didn’t have the greatest example of motherhood at home, and as Carmen had reminded me, I didn’t have a manual at my disposal either. How and where could I learn how to be a good parent? 

Today time’s are changing… there are parenting workshops, books, video clips on YouTube. There is an endless amount of information with little to no restriction for access. What hasn’t changed is how as new parents we still talk and focus on how to become better parents to those who preceded us. 

As I explained to Carmen, the difference isn’t made by the number of books you read or videos you watch. It doesn’t even matter how many self-enriching workshops you do. What it comes down to is how you integrate all of that new information in your mind, body and heart. It’s about walking the talk and about developing and nurturing deep self-love and self-responsibility.

So how did I become, ‘different’? First and foremost, through a very strong desire to be different (note: not necessarily better, just different). Then, through my innate child-like curiosity and open mind. And finally, through my practice of what in my work I call the 3 P’s:

Practice

Persistence

Patience

The key ingredient to executing these 3 P’s, is intention. As Stephen Covey once wisely said, “Always start with an intention in mind”, as nothing can truly transform without the initial ‘switch’.

 image by  Monica Gozalo

image by Monica Gozalo

So that’s exactly what I did, I set out my intention. Every cell of my body corroborate this intention, I felt such a deep emotional desire to be different, which drove me out of denial and towards my journey of self-awareness 21 years ago. 

To become parents, or ‘different’ parents, we don’t actually need to do much, but we are required to be. When the focus shifts to being rather than doing, you automatically become a more authentic role model for your own children. It is that being that makes all the difference. With time, and experiences along the way, I realised that thriving to do in order to be an exemplary parent can not only be counterproductive but also damaging for both parents and children.

So if anyone ever asks me for some good advise in regards to being a ‘different’ parent or thriving to be an excellent parent, my reply is always to start getting to know yourself from the inside, out. And then never stop. Even when you think you’ve arrived, you’ll find you’ve simply come to the beginning of another journey, the cycle will carry on until we die.

How to Start Getting to Know Yourself from the Inside, Out

Eventually, you’ll be required to turn more inwardly to really engage with the experience of being rather than doing. Literature and information will only get you so far. This is then the time to invest your energy, time and money to making that step to becoming a ‘different’ parent. Just as you’d invest in a new pair of shoes, a tropical getaway or a house, it is so important that you invest in yourself and the legacy you want to leave your children.

I would really recommend beginning with a coach or counsellor. Their objective guidance can bring limiting beliefs, judgements and behaviours you learnt from your parents to the surface. The good thing when it comes to beliefs and behaviours is that they are learnt, which means that they can be unlearnt and substituted with new and more useful ones. Anyone can do it and at any age, the only requirement is willingness. Changing is a job that requires consistency and effort, there will be a lot of excuses and resistance, so we need to be the driving force behind that choice.

No, no manual is readily given to us when we become parents, and certainly not when we choose to become ‘different’ ones. Being a parent is a journey and we learn through daily experiences and choices. What we are equipped with from birth however, is humility, and we can use this in adulthood and parenthood to recognise and surrender to the fact we won’t be better than our parents, simply different, and only if we really want to. 

Only if we set a clear intention and walk the journey of life, practicing what we preach from a space of self-love and self-responsibility.


Read my blog post Wholeness: The Search for our Lost Self for more in-depth information on investing in yourself and beginning the journey,  Self Awareness: A Lifetime Journey for more on the importance of getting to know yourself and steps on how to and Do I Need a Life Coach? for some advice on how to find the right coach to support you on your journey. 

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image header by Guille Pozzi

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