A Guest Post by Emilie Leeks
We all have challenging moments in our parenting, and how we react to these can almost always be traced back to some stored hurt feelings from earlier in our lives.
We had a very difficult birth with our first child, followed by him being in special care for a month. This was something that hung like a shadow, both over my parenting, and over my son's early years.
A while back, I had the opportunity to set a limit with him (he was then aged 7) early in the day, when I needed to stop him repeatedly bugging his sister.
He had been going through a really angry period, lashing out at all of us vocally and physically. On this particular day, he was clearly showing us that he was struggling with something.
After I set the limit, we had a huge Staylistening session, and he was very aggressive towards me. At first I felt frustrated, and that I was going through the motions, using words of reassurance (like letting him know I was there, that I wouldn't leave him, and that he was safe), rather than really feeling where he was coming from.
But when I managed to see past my own anger (and his) to the frightened little boy underneath, I could see the fear he was trying to push down.
I got really calm and warm, and eventually he cried, which he rarely did at that time, and wanted lots of cuddles. He became very affectionate towards me.
I felt very close to him and quite tearful myself, as just being there for him when he needed me reminded me so much of his first month of life, when he was stuck in hospital and I couldn't be there for him very much of the time.
I had my parent support group later that evening, and decided to brave it and talk about my son's first few weeks. I had known for a while that I needed to go there, but I don't really like to. It was only the second time I'd cried in my Listening Partnership, reliving those early days and talking about how “he's our baby – not theirs.”
I know that there's still so much I'm holding on to around his birth: Guilt and regret, wishing I could go back and do it again, and knowing how differently I would do things again if I could.
I'm not sure I would have got to that point in my Listening Partnership if it hadn't been for the big Staylistening session I'd done with my son earlier.
After the support group, I felt like I was able to see much more clearly the hurt my son was expressing through his angry outbursts, and not get so triggered myself by them.
I felt much more like we were in it together. It was easier to see past the anger, to empathise, and to remember that this was a hurt little boy I was dealing with.
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Read more about the hidden fears that might be driving your child's offtrack behavior in Are Secret Fears Driving Your Child's Aggression?
Find out how to build trust with a child that is angry or scared
Meet the Instructor
Emilie Leeks lives in Berkshire, UK with her husband and three children. She is a certified Hand in Hand Instructor with additional experience in speech, language and communication issues.