Every great movie has two main characters- the good guy and the bad guy- and then all the people in the background. In parenting, these are the “perfect parents” and the two villains- Monster Mommy and Scary Daddy.
Limiting beliefs in parenting can hold you back from creating a secure relationship with your children. There is one story that I hold on to 'rent free' in my head that is destructive and that I see so many parents fall into. The story of the GOOD parent versus the BAD parent.
- The difference between the "good guys" and the "bad guys" in parenting isn't inherent traits but emotional intelligence and nurturing caregivers.
- Hurt people often hurt people, and the antidote is healing, understanding, love, and connection.
- Unpacking and rewriting limiting beliefs about what makes a "good parent" or a "bad parent" can break the cycle of negative parenting behaviors.
Two summers ago, I was sitting on a screen on the porch late one night with my two closest friends. One was a school teacher, and the other was a Mom to one son, who at the time was entering 3rd grade. As we chatted, personal values came up.
I shared, “I do not believe there are bad people, just simply hurt people.” This led us to talk about all the shadowy people or superheroes.
As a preschool teacher, I read a LOT of superhero books. The good guys were painted as gods, and the villains were pushed away on the outskirts and ultimately defeated.
After YEARS of reading these stories and learning the backstories of all of these characters, I started to notice that the difference between a “good guy” and a “bad guy” wasn’t some fundamental trait that some are born with, and others are not, noooooooo.
The difference between the good guys and the bad guys came down to emotional intelligence, a warm and nurturing caregiver, and the story that they are good and worthy.
The villains were often born into hurting families. They were not accepted and often punished throughout their upbringing, shamed, and humiliated repeatedly until they were accepted by some sort of community of other villains, connecting in their shared pain.
I remember vividly getting into a deep week-long debate with Colin, a 4-year-old in my class who at the time loved Batman, about how I thought the Joker needed some love and attention.
Little to my knowledge, about four years later, there would be a movie that came out with the same storyline as I had suggested. It confirmed that I was on to something, piecing together the pieces of my lived experience combined with my training and research.
Hurt people indeed hurt people. The antidote is not shame, punishment, exclusion, humiliation, and pain. It’s healing, understanding, love, and connection.
So, let’s pivot this to our own stories inside our minds about parenting.
I have noticed that many of the parents I work with have similar stories with similar storylines.
In their mind, there is the “perfect parent,” and there is the “bad parent." Often said to me as “Monster Mommy” or “Scary Daddy,” some alter-ego that takes over and leaves in the ashes resentment, destruction, and often guilt.
This starts the cycle over again- I call it the Yell, Guilt, Gift cycle- and this is often done in the attempt to get out of Monster Mommy/Scary Daddy mode. But what ultimately leads us right back again? Yelling triggers the feelings of guilt. Perhaps you had made a promise not to do it again.
This leaves you feeling pretty low and disappointed at yourself when you yell once again, so you use the recovery tools you know that is some form of gift. An extra show, a small toy, staying up late- something that is gifted to relieve you of the feelings of guilt. Only to be triggered again to yell- starting the cycle repeatedly.
What if instead of trying to change the outside- we look inside and address the underlying beliefs driving this behavior- by unpacking and rewriting what a “good parent” and “bad parent” is?
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