It’s not surprising—how you were raised can greatly influence how you feel in response to your children’s emotions and behaviors. So you may have thought about this before; but you may find some surprising twists!
It’s these twists that will give you new insight and help you shift, whether you feel uncomfortable allowing crying in arms or perhaps angry when your child exhibits a certain response.
As you journey through this, if anything seems vague, big, confusing, or like you can’t put your finger on it, that’s your key. Look there! Patterning (“training”) around emotions goes into us so early and deeply/subconsciously that it can feel like a haze, or like instinct, or like something’s there but you’re not really sure what it is.
I’ll help you think through things! Let’s get started…
Part 1: Your responses and triggers
First, some reflection. What worries you? Or provokes anxiety? What are your parenting triggers?
Think about how you feel when your baby cries [or fill in your personal blank]?
Do you react to your toddler in a way you later wish you hadn’t?
When your child expresses big feelings or acts a certain way, does it trigger you, is there an extra charge to it?
If you’re already using Aware Parenting, how did you feel when your child cried—before you learned about “crying in arms”?
Here are some examples you might relate to:
- Hearing your baby cry at all is very uncomfortable or makes you nervous
- Okay with crying to a point, then feel worried or anxious
- Feel like you must make the crying stop
- A feeling that something bad will happen if the crying doesn’t stop
- Feel like tantrums are okay, but need to happen in a room by themselves (“come back when you’re ready”)
- Taking a long time to fall asleep feels triggering (this is common!)
- Feel comfortable with crying, but certain responses or behaviors set you on edge
Notice without judging yourself—stay curious.
Part 2: How you were raised
Set that aside for a moment. Now think about your own upbringing.
When you cried or had big feelings, how were you responded to?
What was the emotional atmosphere in your home?
Did you feel physically safe? Did you feel emotionally safe?
What are the spoken or unspoken messages you internalized about expressing feelings?
Do you have any memories of situations or words spoken to you?
Do you have any implicit memories—more a sense of something, or sensation memory, or gut feelings?
Another big clue is how your parents respond when your child cries, tantrums, or “misbehaves.”
Also think about what you longed for—is there anything you wanted your parents to do or be, which they didn’t? This isn’t about judgment; it’s not about ‘good guy’/’bad guy’ or ‘should have’/’shouldn’t have.’ But it will be helpful for you to pinpoint, if you can.
Part 3: How does your past relate to your present?
This is the part that can seem nebulous. Don’t worry if it’s confusing, uncertain, or seems like something and nothing at the same time.
Look for links. How does the way you were raised relate to how you feel about or react to your child? They usually link up, and it might be obvious, or it might sneak up on you. There might be a twist, or maybe a counter-reaction.
Here are some possibilities:
- Whatever you tend to do to stop the crying, was that same thing done to you?
- Were your parents aggressive or hostile, and you want to do the opposite? Keep going though—is there a particular aspect or detail that mirrors or counters itself between your past and present?
- Feel fine about allowing crying in arms, but you zone out or don’t necessarily feel connected? Is this similar to what you experienced?
- What words did you use to describe your triggers/responses? What words did you use to describe your upbringing? Are any of them the same?
- Was there a particular label you received growing up (too sensitive, cry too much, etc)? When you see the same thing in your child, does it bother you, or do you feel anxious about it?
There are many more ways the past and present can connect; I hope this gets you started.
What to do with this insight
After thinking this through, sure, it might still feel challenging in those moments with your child. That’s because an emotional response (for you or your child) takes place in the limbic system—it’s a lower-brain, quicker response. The analytical thinking we’re doing right now is a high-brain task. It’s not always so easy to get to high-brain logic when you’re in a quicker-brain response. (Hint—same goes for your child who may—or may not—be able to “use his/her words” in that moment).
But I promise you, things will start shifting in the big picture. The thing to remember from this is that when you’re experiencing a charged response to your child, part of what’s happening is their response—and part of it is yours.
So when you’re in that moment—when your baby is crying or your kiddo is ‘acting out’—see if you can mentally find your way (afterwards, if not during) to “okay, part of what I’m feeling is me, it’s my leftover history, my own inner child.” It will help you begin to separate things out.
It will become less of a giant nebulous cloud and more containable, definable, namable. It will start to have some edges.
Partly, there’s nothing you need to “do,” just bringing awareness to it will do its own work.
And then partly you can use this information consciously, by recognizing the links, realizing if some of the charge is your own old feelings now being unearthed, or using your insights to inform your next response to your child.
Trust the process, for yourself and your child.