When reflecting on my lowest parenting moment, many might be surprised that the time I lost my child in an icy Christmas exhibit did not make the list. Yes, him climbing up an icy slide might have made a viral video, but that moment did not make the list. In fact, many could have witnessed my lowest parenting moment and never thought twice about the interactions.
Recently, it has been impossible to log-in to various social media platforms without reading articles about the message that various leaders are sending to our children. The secret I know as a child counselor is that children’s core values and behaviors are mostly shaped by their parents: not politicians, leaders, or the media. I also know that our actions send a bigger message to our children than our words.
The lowest parenting moment came when I showed my child that our needs came first, that others’ needs did not matter as much as ours. “Wow,” many are thinking, “how could you send that message?” The thing is I would never say that to my child, yet I demonstrated it. During my lowest parenting moment, my two children were getting haircuts. My youngest had her first haircut, yet my oldest just had to wait in order to get the firetruck seat. During our 30-minute wait for that special seat, I couldn’t help but see a young elementary child, and his mother waiting. I half noticed that his mother looked a bit more stressed than expected for a haircut. I also noticed that their interactions seemed a bit immature, yet I shrugged it off. What I fully noticed was the family skipping ahead of us for the coveted firetruck seat. I became angry because I was worrying too much about my own child’s tantrum. As a child counselor, I know this is a moment to teach flexible thinking, perspective taking, and determining the size of the problem. However, as a stressed mother I demanded to know why a child was “cutting in front of us.” The nice worker came and whispered, “you might not know what autism is, but this young boy has it.” My heart sank, and I was more embarrassed than ever before. I wanted to say, “not only do I know what autism is, I have spent my career diagnosing and treating individuals on the autism spectrum for the past decade.” Of course all I could really do in the moment is smile and nod. As I looked over, I could clearly see what I was not wanting to see in my self-centered moments. I noticed the extreme anxiety he was exhibiting to the loud sounds. I also knew that I taught my son by my actions is that our needs came first. Actions speak louder than words, and my actions showed exactly what I do not want to teach my child. So yes, this was my lowest parenting moment.
Parenthood is hard. There are times we briefly lose our children, lose our tempers, and yell more than we should. However, our lowest moments come in our daily interactions when we demonstrate to our children the messages that we would never say aloud. Have you ever considered what messages are being sent by your daily actions?
Written by Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC-S
Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and the Clinical Director at Cy-Hope Counseling. Amy has been practicing for over ten years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Cypress, Texas and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy counseling style by visiting http://www.amyrollotherapy.com/about/