When parents ask for advice on raising their children, I always tell them “The best way to love your child is to love yourself.” This “loving yourself” is not to be confused with the sacrifice parents make to meet the needs of their children. Sacrifice of that enormity takes all of the 24 character strengths, with love, self-regulation and humor; probably the character strengths most called upon. It doesn’t, however, prohibit you from loving yourself.
The hardest thing about parenting or teaching for that matter, is sacrificing your needs (like time to yourself) to tend to the needs of your children. Our babies don’t keep, so we make the sacrifices in an effort to be a good parent. We all know our job is to give our kids a safe, secure, and loving environment where they feel seen and understood. I am here to confess, while my intention was 100%, my performance fell way short while raising my children. I’m not even sure on my best parenting days that I reached the eightieth percentile. My attention often went to scolding myself for poor parenting when my children didn’t listen or had academic challenges. Lucky for us though, our children are born with a forgiving and understanding nature. They always allow us a do-over. The success of the do-over is in our willingness to allow a difficult experience to be felt with warmth – self-love.
So here is the deal. Ironically, loving yourself (that is being kind and compassionate to yourself) makes the sacrifice that comes with parenting easier. If you can lighten up on yourself, the grip of self-doubt will lighten up. There is no shortage of opinions on how parents should raise their children but there is a shortage of support for parents. The more you practice loving yourself the more you will start to be your own #1 fan. Who knows, we could even start our own fan club.
Throughout February, I will blog about some self-love strategies to practice. For this week just notice every time you are highly self-critical or self-judging. Say to yourself what you would say to a child. What we practice grows stronger. Soon you will be your own #1 fan.