Parenting From The Inside Out
Parenting From The Inside Out By Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Mary Hartzell, M. Ed.
I have read, loved and been challenged by this book – as a parent and as a therapist. I see Parenting From The Inside Out as one of the original source texts for the “gentle parenting” movement. I’m sure there have been many other influences in this area, but this is one of the books where some of those ideals were first fleshed out, pen to paper. And just like most source texts, it’s much more nuanced, rich and challenging to apply in our lives than a surface view from Parenting TikTok would lead us to believe.
When considering what to share regarding April being Child Abuse Prevention Month, this book immediately came to mind. Most parents are immediately faced by how much harder it is to share our houses and lives with tiny humans than we expected. We find ourselves doing and saying the things that we swore we would never do or say. The very same things that hurt us as children end up coming out of our mouths and through our actions when we are under stress, angry, or confused about what to do as parents. Or we swing the other way and do the exact opposite of the parenting we received yet somehow feel that we are not being effective in our parenting choices. That we’re not being the right parent for our kiddo in that moment.
This book can be a starting point to help you sort through all the different things that come up in your parenting. I have come to understand, as a parent much more than as a therapist, that raising children is an opportunity to face our own developmental wounds one by one. As our children reach the stages in which we were wounded and then proceed to trigger those pain points, there is an invitation present. This can be a gift or a curse. It depends on how you see it and what you choose to do with it.
I am working toward my parenting becoming a practice. Much as folks have a meditation practice or a spiritual practice, I’ve come to find that if I can allow my parenting, or more specifically, my emotions and patterns that come up and derail my parenting, to be an object of my curiosity and compassion, I am a happier, more creative, more sane parent. I can intentionally follow the trailheads of my frustration, anger or trapped feelings to their origin and find healing, relief or at least some resilience that comes from knowing the whole story. Or they can follow me, creating shame and regret.
Seeing it as a practice invites another much needed element for me. Seeing my progress vs expecting perfection. I am practicing being a parent. This has provided some much needed room to breathe as a ‘professional person who helps others with their emotions but still loses her temper with her own kids.’ The mindset of practice helps keep my heart open and holds the tender parts of me that can hijack my parenting with playful compassion instead of self hate and shame. I’m less stuck and my kids are better off for it.
So, read this book. Tread lightly. Be gentle with yourself. And reach out if you need a steady-handed companion on this journey of becoming the parent you hope to be. We don’t have it all figured out yet. But we can practice together.
- Autumn Starks, LCSW (about) Founder and Psychotherapist, Starks Therapy Group
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