Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving and it’ll be a different one than usual due to a hiccup in my current trauma recovery, but I am slowly learning what true love is.
In the movie, Frozen, Else has a special gift of being able to create ice and snow. Unfortunately, while playing with her little sister, Anna, she accidentally hurt her with her special power. From that day on, she was told to not show her power to anyone and it was treated like a curse. She was separated from her sister and her little sister didn’t understand why due to the memory being erased.
Fear triggers Elise to create ice in a dangerous way. But after she finally becomes free, she learns to use it for beauty and in the end, a single act of true love is the only thing that will undo Anna being frozen.
We want our children and the world to become kinder and more loving. I believe that the only way to do this is to practice true love. And to let the children be who they are as long as they are not hurting anyone.
Love and kindness cultivate a grateful heart whereas harshness and hate create anger and bitterness. This Thanksgiving, and year round, let’s do our best to create love, kindness, and gratitude!
I hear that being a parent is very hard work and I agree even though I am not a parent. Most of my friends have children. My husband has a son. Therefore, I see and hear about all the sacrifices that they have gladly made. I get to witness some of these sacrifices my friends choose to make for their children. It’s not always fun but they do it out of love.
Teachers also make sacrifices for the children in their classes. I did. I had to do my best to be at my best for the children I worked with. Did I get exasperated when a toddler was high spirited or had behavioral problems and needed extra attention? Yes! Did I feel stressed out when I worked with infants and they all started crying at the same time with only my aide and me in the room? Yes!
However, I never held it against them because I chose to be a teacher and I understood that they were just being themselves. I understand how the child brain works so to hold that against them would have deeply hurt my connections with them. Children are also very perceptive. They can feel our stress and negative vibes.
I am severely physically disabled and I understand that I am a lot of work. It must be even more difficult to parent a child with a disability because he/she requires even more care and can’t always do activities that typical children can, especially children with sensory issues such as aversion to loud noises. Should it be held against a child if he/she gets overwhelmed by crowds or loud noises? No, of course not, because it’s out of their control!
According to dictionary.com, the definition of resentment is:
thefeeling of displeasure or indignation at someact,remark,person,etc.,regarded as causinginjury or insult.”
So a person who feels resentment towards his/her children believes that the children have caused “injury or insult” to him/her and holds it against them. These people are not able to let it go. Let’s face it, children will hurt us sometimes but they usually don’t truly mean it. And children are born with the ability to love unconditionally.
They didn’t ask to be conceived and born. They didn’t ask to have an immature brain that doesn’t allow them to have total impulse control over their behaviors. And children with disabilities didn’t ask for it either!
I know parents don’t ask for their children to be disabled or high spirited. However, by choosing to become a parent, parents should be ready for anything even if this means asking for help when they are overwhelmed and don’t know what to do or are exhausted. I understand that getting help and support isn’t always easy and our country has much work to do in supporting families of every type. Organizations also need to step up the resources and support for families. But help is out there.
Your screaming baby isn’t screaming just to drive you to tears. He/She needs you and may not be able to sleep. It’s not the baby’s fault. Your preschooler isn’t hitting you and having meltdowns just to embarrass you or make you crazy. He/She just don’t have the ability to deal with big feelings without your help. The child needs you to gently but firmly guide him/her through the process. It’s not the child’s fault. Your teenager isn’t saying mean things to you because he/she truly means it. Teens still require help dealing with strong emotions and it’s not their fault. Children need discipline and care.
Your child with disabilities isn’t trying to hold you back because he/she requires your constant care. The child needs you! It’s not his/her fault!
Children learn a lot from the adults around them. They must learn about empathy, grace, and unconditional love in order to give it back. It’s true that parents will get angry, frustrated, and exasperated with their children. They will need breaks and self care. But parents have chosen to be the child’s parents, therefore, to hold everything against the child is not appropriate. If a parent is feeling resentful of the children, then he/she must seek help from professionals. If not, then the relationship with the children will be tainted and may even become abusive.
Parenting is the hardest job in the world. Believe it or not, so is being a child trying to learn and navigate through this new world. Respect the children and the children will respect their parents unless they have a mental illness that needs addressing. Respect begets respect. Resentment begets broken relationships.
I haven’t been writing much lately due to my new trauma, so here’s a short post with thoughts about a recent meme from my meditation app Calm.
It is really sad some people don’t know how to truly love. I believe that we love unconditionally as infants and young children but how we are treated as children can literally rip this ability away and cause mental illness that will not allow us to continue to truly love unconditionally.This is so sad because they miss out on true love and end up hurting the people that they “love.”
This was me 20 years ago today. I graduated high school with my class ’99 with honors thanks to CHIP empowering me to stand up to everyone who thought I should stay in high school! I hated Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings because it was more like “Plan Steph’s Life” meetings, but Chip was my boyfriend then and came to these meetings with me giving me the courage to stand my ground. I don’t think anyone but Chip and I wanted me to graduate with my class. I would have been SO UNHAPPY not graduating especially when I was in the National Honor Society, and as you can see, graduated with honors!
I went on to Waubonsee Community College, and had a wonderful counselor who encouraged me to take Psychology which led me to be an early childhood professional with my Master’s Degree. No, things haven’t worked out exactly how I wanted but I am getting my children’s book illustrated by Candace Lyon, and I will get my 2nd edition (non-religious) of Gentle Firmness out on Amazon and keep advocating for children. Eventually I will find my place.
I have always had to fight for everything, but I am blessed to have a wonderful man to fight with me to accomplish what I am supposed. I’m glad I don’t have a boring computer job that everyone but Chip tried to push me into!
April is Child Abuse Awareness Month and anyone who knows me or has been following me or has my first edition of my book, Gentle Firmness, knows that child abuse is something I am extremely passionate about.
I am a child abuse survivor. I was physically, verbally, and emotionally abused by my dad and various other adults until I was 17 years old and finally told people that I was being abused. All abusers make their victims feel shame and guilt. One often thinks, “If only I did better,” or “It’s all my fault.” I still struggle with this and have recently learned of additional abusive behavior that I’ve continued to endure as an adult that I was either unaware of and/or denied it was real. Unfortunately, I continue to get confirmation that this abuse and manipulation is real and am putting a stop to it.
Mental illness runs in my family most likely due to the horrible cycle of abuse. Genes may also play a part in the mental illness of my family. My Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) score is a 7, which is pretty high, and I struggle with anxiety, PTSD, and depression every day. But every day I work towards healing and helping people.
To not share my story and pain would be like not sharing something that, unfortunately, is a part of me. It would be like denying that I have severe cerebral palsy. While I don’t allow either of these things to define me, I have wounds and scars from my trauma and I believe in using my pain to help others—others who were abused, others who are trying to break the cycle with their own children, and others who need to know that we’re not alone in this. And if I can prevent one child from abuse and heartbreak from the people who are supposed to love them, then it’s all worth it.
Another reason I share my story is to show that there is hope even when it doesn’t always feel like it. Some days are harder than others for us survivors, but we are survivors. There is no shame in getting help professionally. There’s no shame in creating healthy relationships to support you. Abusers and their defenders will make you feel like a horrible person for opening up about your abuse but don’t let them win. This is typical abuser behavior. Unless the abuser gets help, nothing will ever change.
I hope also try to help people understand that even “normative spankings” are abuse in that corporal punishment can make children at a higher risk of being physically abused. When a parent spanks/hits a child and the child doesn’t obey, the parent may decide to spank/hit even harder. This is a risk for physical abuse even if one doesn’t consider corporal punishment as abuse. No child ever deserves to be hit.
And countless other studies show that corporal punishment is harmful to children and it often includes emotional and verbal abuse because the child is told how “bad” he/she is and how he/she “deserves the spanking.”
My dad hit me becauseof my spasms, which are involuntary muscle movements due to my severe cerebral palsy. He also hit me for other things. He was verbally and emotionally abusive as well. He passed away in 2003.
After extensively researching narcissism as well as conferring with a colleague that knows more about this mental illness than meI do, I now believe that both of my parents very likely had/have this disorder. In addition to refusing to admit they were/are wrong, they exhibited/exhibit other key characteristics of narcissism such as a lack of empathy, “an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships” (Mayo Clinic, 2019).
I have been over-analyzing my own behaviors because I am absolutely terrified of getting this mental illness. It’s important to realize that it’s human nature to occasionally be selfish and self-absorbed. It is also human nature to want recognition for accomplishments or to not to want to always admit when we are wrong. Sometimes, like children, we want our own way and lash out when we don’t get our way. This is not narcissistic as long as we recognize these tendencies and can admit that we do some of them occasionally. I know I do these things sometimes but I always admit it. I will always apologize if I am in the wrong.
To have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), one must exhibit at least 5 or more of these characteristics to an abnormal level and not be able to admit that he/she is doing any of this. People with NPD will deny that they have it and will make their victims believe that it’s the victims’ fault, not theirs. And as with any kind of illness, there is a spectrum wherein each individual lies. Some people have narcissistic tendencies and some have NPD. Unfortunately, because people with narcissistic tendencies or NPD will absolutely not seek help for this mental illness, it’s very difficult to diagnose. These people usually seek treatment for depression or anxiety but not narcissism (Bressert, 2019). In addition to this, NPD and other personality disorders can have the same kind of characteristics.
I forgive my parents and other abusers and their defenders, but I cannot remain silent. This is now a part of my story and I will tell it in a respectful manner. Because people with NPD or narcissistic tendencies are masters at manipulation, one must put up strong boundaries and stand firm. Otherwise, through manipulation that isn’t always obvious, these people will break the boundaries. Walking away from them is the best way to protect oneself and hopefully get them to get help. But nothing is guaranteed with this mental illness.
One can and must forgive his/her abusers because the forgiveness is more about setting oneself free from harboring anger and resentment towards them. However, this does not mean letting the abusers off the hook. I can’t do this myself. Forgiveness also does not mean that you have to reconcile with them. It just means you are able to work through the pain and heal.
I also don’t believe that all abusers are narcissistic or have a mental illness. The cycle is so hard to break especially when the community is actually encouraging the abuse and the silence of the children and adults. I’m aware of many abusers and/or pro-spankers that have realized that they were wrong and have apologized for it. They change the way they parent or interact with their grown children. Change is possible!
I am learning how to not be in toxic relationships with people who continue to hurt me. This is far from easy but having healthy relationships is crucial for healing and recovery. Getting psychotherapy is a must. And I heal from getting tattoos so I recently got the tattoo below. It was very emotional for me but reminds me that I am a SURVIVOR! I need this on the days that feel impossible to get through.
Gentle parenting is prevention for child abuse. If parents understand typical child development, then I believe that they are less likely to spank/hit or otherwise abuse their children. Therefore, I will never stop sharing my story. It is a part of my healing process. I don’t do it out of spite. I do it because I understand the pain and struggle after trauma and abuse.
May we value children and stop child abuse someday for good!
Arikan, K. (2005). A Stigmatizing Attitude Towards Psychiatric Illness is Associated with Narcissistic Personality Traits. Psychiatry Relat Sci Vol 42 No. 4 pp. 248–250
Black, R. (2019). Personality Disorders: A Guide to the Ten Different Types. Retrieved https://www.psycom.net/personality-disorders-10-different-types/
Another post from Ashley Taylor about gentle parenting with a disability.
Being a parent is never easy, but when you have a disability, several aspects of the job can become a whole lot more complicated. For the approximately 4.1 million parents with disabilities throughout the country, the usual questions of parenting are compounded by worries about how they will keep up with their child, keep them safe, and educate them. Whatever your disability, the following tips can help you deal with these questions as they arise.
Focus on Home Safety
As a parent, one of your most important jobs is keeping your child safe and healthy within your home. Parents with disabilities have to be particularly careful, as they are not usually able to keep up with a small child’s energy or react quickly enough if something dangerous is about to happen. Therefore, the key to parenting is prevention.
There are a few key safety modifications that can make the everyday tasks of parenting easier and safer. These can include adaptable products such as chairlifts, modified sinks, and adjustable furniture such as changing tables and toilets. When you have a small child, a child safety gate can be invaluable, as it keeps them out of dangerous areas and can help you keep track of exactly where they are at any given time.
Learn to DIY
Any piece of furniture or kit you can think of for raising a child has a wheelchair or disability-friendly version out there. However, these can often be very expensive. For example, cribs for disabled parents that open from the front can cost about $2,000, but if you can DIY (or know someone who can), you can easily make one yourself.
Another area where DIY helps is food. Opening baby food jars can be difficult for people with cerebral palsy, arthritis, or similar disabilities. Making your own can be both healthier and easier as long as you have a good food processor. These recipes can give you some inspiration.
Teach Them Compassion
Your children will experience a rare benefit from growing up with a disabled parent: They will automatically develop empathy and compassion for those who are differently abled. However, you should still actively teach them about these matters as well.
This article by Parent Map outlines the ways in which parents can speak to non-disabled children about disability. While it is written from the perspective of a non-disabled parent, much of the advice still applies, such as being open to answering questions and teaching them that not all disabilities will look exactly like yours.
Also, you can use your disability to teach them about compassion in other areas of life. Growing up with someone who is considered “different” will help them see the many ways in which “difference” is used to mock, bully, and demean people. You can use this to start a conversation about bullying and how they can prevent it, both in themselves and the people around them.
Know Your Rights
Parents with disabilities will sometimes run into problems with social services or the law because people wrongly believe that they are unable to take care of their children. This isn’t necessarily likely to happen, but it is still a good idea for you to be informed of your rights as a disabled parent. This toolkit by the National Council on Disability is an invaluable tool for this.
Parenting with a disability doesn’t necessarily mean everything is suddenly harder, but it does mean you have to think about certain matters more carefully than other parents. You will have to plan your everyday life in more detail and remain aware of how your experience is shaping your child’s world view. However, a disability will never stop you from having a beautiful, supportive, and loving relationship with your child — if anything, it can sometimes bring you closer.
I’m not pregnant and not adopting yet, but I have been thinking a lot about unconditional love and thought I would write this since it is almost Valentine’s Day and every child deserves true unconditional love.
Dear my precious child,
I wanted you since I was a child myself and you are a dream come true. I promise to try to never make you feel unwanted. If I do, please tell me and I will make it right!
I will always love you unconditionally! Nothing will ever change that! If you ever question my love for you, I will do everything I can to help you feel my love for you!
I know I am going to make a million mistakes while we work together to get through this life but I promise to always apologize to you and truly mean it!
I will teach you how to handle your big feelings and I will always do my best to validate your feelings. I will have my own feelings and may mess up by not remaining calm, but I will always apologize for yelling or saying anything that hurt you. I hope you will always feel safe enough to see share all your feelings with me.
Yes, you will have appropriate limits and boundaries that you won’t always like. I will do my best to be appropriately flexible with you. Sometimes I will have to hold firm in the limit but I will always listen to you. If you want to do something differently, I will be open to that.
Our relationship will be built on mutual respect and trust. I will always apologize if I disrespect you or break your trust in me. Of course, the same will go for you too.
I will allow you to have self-expression as long as it’s not hurting anyone. I may not be into something you are, but I will never put you down for being yourself. Be yourself!
I will never ever punish you by hitting/spanking you, time-out, taking away your stuff arbitrarily, or shaming you. I will apologize if I do. There will be natural consequences for you and I will help you understand them.
You’re always welcome! I will want to see you! You always come first!
I will never manipulate you for any reason.
My precious child, this is a cruel world sometimes. You’re heart will be broken and my heart will break every time yours does. I am here for you. You will know how loved you are by me, your dad, your Heavenly Father, and others. It’s ok to protect yourself from toxic people and relationships. But please don’t lose your loving, vulnerable heart. It’s worth it to love. I will help you through this.
I won’t be a perfect mom. Just know that you are my world and I will do everything I can to love you as you deserve. You’re a beautiful person. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
My sister-in- law sent me this meme, and I am forever grateful because I am going through a lot right now. I’m far from perfect, but I truly believe that this applies to ALL ages and ALL relationships.
I tell my story and advocate for those who don’t have a voice because I want my pain to do good. If my pain helps others, then it’s all worth it!
I can’t believe it’s Christmas time again. Well, it was when I began writing this post.
If you’re anything like me, you enjoy helping others in need all year-round, but especially this time of the year. There are so many people in need and we are called to help them.
Unfortunately, this time of year also brings out the greediness in many. You usually see this on Black Friday (which starts on Thanksgiving night now) and just before Christmas when people fight over the products that they must have.
Our children are aware of all of this. They are also aware of when we are unkind to each other and them. Conversely, they’re also aware of our kindness and compassion for each other.
Punishment is also a form of bullying because it teaches children how to force people to do what they want. It is a temporary, ineffective solution to any behavioral issues, but especially for bullying. Most bullying is the result of bullies feeling powerless because there’s either too much control in the home, i.e. authoritarian parenting (very controlling and punitive), or not enough care and acknowledgment, i.e.neglectful and permissive parenting. Some children (and adults) are so desperate for control and power that they will target seemingly weaker people. They push and push until they get the reaction they want and then they feel powerful being over the other person.
While I completely understand the seriousness of bullying as I have been bullied and made fun of my whole life, and I just dealt with a cyber bully, I feel like the dad just reinforced the bully mentality by making his daughter walk to school and video it.
What did it teach her about kindness and respect? NOTHING! And his demeanor was very punitive and bullyish. Forcing her to walk in the cold while he followed her in his truck and videoed the whole thing is punishment, not a consequence of her actions. And SHE was also bullied herself. Think maybe she was trying to exercise power over others like they had done to her? There is no excuse for bullying, but you have to understand all the reasons why a child is behaving in a certain manner so that you can work with him/her and teach him/her.
Children learn what they live. As I said, I just recently had a cyber bullying incident that I had to report to Facebook. Both children and adults get behind their screens and say things that they usually wouldn’t ever say to the other person’s face. I have not been a bully but I have been harsh online and have had to apologize for my behavior. Saying anything cruel and calling names is bullying and verbal and emotional abuse!
It’s very important to realize that people of any age that act poorly usually feel poorly. If one feels good about oneself, usually they don’t have the need to exercise control or get a reaction from another person. There’s no need to purposefully hurt another person when you have healthy self-compassion. Bullies are trying to get/do one of two things:
Exercise control over a weaker person to feel powerful and inflict pain so that someone else can feel the pain that they are feeling.
To get a negative reaction from the victim as well as attention from others.
I would be very upset if I had a child and my child ever bullied another child. Social media and other media outlets are showing bullying to children. So the first two things I would ask if my child was being a bully is “What have I been doing to contribute to this?” And, “Why is my child feeling like he/she has to bully?” There is a reason for all unwanted behaviors. I would work on the connection between my child and me.
I would limit screen time for my child and insist on knowing every account they have. Many children and adults have secret accounts for bullying and other inappropriate things that they don’t want anyone else to know about. It is crucial to be an active participant in our children’s online activities. We need to stop cyber bullying and teach children that cyber bullying is also never okay. If they see online bullying, they should put an eyeball 👁 emoji in the comments. And cyber bullying must always be reported!
I would have many long discussions with my child about why it’s NEVER ok to bully. I would read books with him/her about people who were bullied. I would role play to teach kindness. I would have him/her do community service with me.
Teaching children unconditional kindness is so important. Unconditional kindness is when we do something kind to someone without expecting any type of reward or credit for it . This is true kindness.
Another critical thing I would do is teach my children about all different people and not do anything to criticize differences. When disability, culture, religion, age, race, and sexuality differences are understood, there’s less bullying because children learn that we’re all humans and we deserve equality and respect no matter what! This is why I wrote my children’s book about my cerebral palsy which is currently being illustrated. When we understand someone very different than us, it leads to kindness and compassion (unless the person is mentally ill and unable to be kind).
Finally, I would take the child to and from school and check in with her/his teacher until I could trust him/her again. Gentle parenting is more work than just punishment. Most parents don’t do anything because they don’t know how.
Understanding what drives bullies is crucial to both stopping and preventing it. Teaching children empathy and compassion is so important. And Christmas time is a great time to really teach this so it will continue year-long. When children see and are involved with more giving than receiving, they’re taught about empathy for people who aren’t as well off as they might be. It also teaches gratefulness and that they are not entitled to get anything.
Christmas and New Years’ is a time to get involved with different charities. It’s also a time to reflect on our relationships with our children and other people. Children need our love and a deep connection with us. They need to see healthy relationships with people. This is vital for teaching empathy, compassion, and love towards others. They also need us to teach them healthy coping skills for their negative emotions.
I believe most bullies can be reformed if they are worked with for a while. It may not happen overnight but we have the power to show them what empathy and compassion looks like. We can soften a harden heart by helping them deal with their own pain that is causing them to bully. We can teach them gently that greed and entitlement are bad.
Children who witness bullying should always report it to a trusted adult. If they are being bullied, they should do their best not to react and walk away to report it. I believe teaching children self-defense is also important. Taekwondo and karate are wonderful ways of accomplishing this!
This Bible verse came up in my devotional recently during my cyber bullying incident. It comforted me and applies to everyone even if one isn’t a believer.
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35, NASB).
As we enter the new year, may we use gentle parenting to prevent bullying and raise kind, compassionate children! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and will have a happy, healthy, blessed New Year!
For my birthday, I got a beautiful hand tattoo which, is in and of itself, a major accomplishment for someone who has severe cerebral palsy, with the phrase, “No mud, no lotus.” I really wanted it on my hand in order to always be able to see it and take comfort in it.
This tattoo is especially meaningful to me after everything I’ve been through. There has been so much darkness and pain, and yet, I am growing and fighting my way to the light out of the mud. This phrase was part of a recent meditation session and it really hit me hard because that’s how I feel. I am growing and changing; doing my best to become a better person while acknowledging that I am far from perfect. I’m learning to love myself and get away from toxic relationships even when it hurts.
I’m trying to be like Christ without all the religious stuff. Without the mud (darkness and pain), there’s no beautiful lotus. I’m trying to get to the blooming flower and I AM getting there. There’s always going to be be pain and darkness throughout life, but it can always eventually turn into something beautiful!
For the Christ-followers, bad things happen in the world because sin and satan are in it. We are not born evil. God is the Author of only good things. Children really need to be taught this so they don’t think they are inherently bad or that God causes “bad things to happen.”
My beautiful hand tattoo by Candace Lyon.
Since today is mental health awareness day, this morning’s meditation session was wonderful! I still struggle with anxiety and PTSD. This week has been especially rough for my bathroom anxiety.
It’s sad that physical pain is widely acknowledged and supported, but when it comes to mental health issues, there’s still a stigma which can, and often does, make people feel isolated and alone. Nobody expects you to “get over” physical illness or pain, but they certainly expect you to hurry up and “get over” emotional pain.
I truly believe emotional health begins at birth or even before. Children are able to pick up on our vibes. Therefore, they definitely require responsive, respectful care to be able to have a better chance at emotional health. After all, emotional health is just as crucial for a healthy society as physical health is.