Honesty, Transparency, and Your True Self
I love learning from various parenting “styles” and “gurus”. Really, I do. It’s enlightening and transformative and can really give me tools and perspective shifts I may never have reached on my own.
But one thing I’ve been cultivating over the years is the detachment from any particular “identity” when it comes to parenting (and life in general) and instead attuning to authenticity.
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be, and embracing who we actually are.” – Brené Brown
To me, it’s about breaking down the boundary of what is happening internally and what I’m expressing externally.
Authenticity, is commonly understood as being genuine and real. It’s the opposite of “pushing down” my true self, of “covering up” my true beliefs, of “watering down” my true feelings. It’s un-suppression.
That doesn’t mean that in being authentic, I unleash my meanest, angriest self on the world (read: my children). Being authentic isn’t license to be rude, yell or punish.
Being authentic means bringing in my true experience to the picture. Allowing my deeper, internal processes to be viewed more transparently by those around me.
It means I’m not playing any games. With anyone. It means trying to step away from manipulations, coercion, control, victimization, aggression and tit-for-tat, instead speaking your truth, plain and simple.
That’s why many of the mainstream parenting advise rubs me the wrong way, it’s inauthentic. It’s not offering the truest, purest and simplest explanation for the parents wishes and commands. It’s simply trying to find ways to make the child meet them. I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in exposing my real motives and feelings to my children. I believe they deserve this and so do I.
An Authentic Parenting philosophy doesn’t take a top-down approach where the parent is all-knowing authority. Authentic parenting takes a more human approach to the parent-child relationship. Seeing parents and children as equal and as teaching each other.
We don’t have any time to waste with pretense. We don’t have any life to waste with pretending. It’s time to be who we are.
Here are some ways I’m working to
- Be authentically honest about your needs.
You and I are flooded with judgments, themes and advice on how we should parent, from breastfeeding to homeschooling, from co-sleeping to potty training… and it’s all great. But ultimately, we need to be able to ask:
- What is true for me?
What would I do if I was motivated out of pure love and not fear?
You and your child are a completely unique spiritual equation, and you’ll need unique solutions to maximize your joy. Don’t let other people’s opinions and experience guide you away from your internal compass of truth.
What do I want my day to look like?
What do I want my bedroom to look like?
What do I want our schedule to look like?
What do I want my home to look like?
Grandmothers, mothers-in-law, bloggers and parenting coaches (*ahem*) can be left outside the door.
This is YOUR life, claim it.
- Expressing your feelings honestly:
When you’re angry say: “I’m feeling angry”. When you’re sad say “I’m feeling sad”. (Rather than: “no! I’m not crying! I’m just cutting onions” try instead “Yes, I’m feeling a little sad.”).
There are many ways you can and should process these feelings, and metabolize them on the inside instead of erupting and projecting them onto your children – but – you have the right to FEEL! It is in no way dangerous to express what we’re feeling, so long as we don’t expect our children to “support” us, and so long as we don’t lash out at them.
Being in a home environment where you feel you need to “keep it together” and suppress your feelings can really backfire, big time. Model for your children how one both fully owns one’s emotional reactivity, and expresses one’s feelings healthily and authentically.
- Taking time for yourself when you need it:
One of the things we (women in particular) seem awful at being authentic about is needing time for ourselves, alone. But authentic parenting means acknowledging and answering our needs, really, even if they’re not aligned with our self “image” (superwoman, anyone?).
If you want to be authentic and to model authenticity it’s time to own your true needs and to meet them, un-apologetically. Your children will not only survive but thrive on having a parent who’s attuned and available because they really want to be.
- Being honest about what you know and don’t:
Many of us grew up in a “respect your elders” and “older and wiser” culture. Whilst I think it’s wonderful to respect all people and living things, this top-down approach has far reaching implications, which sometimes include not admitting to children when we don’t know something, to… save face? Maintain their respect? Not sure.
I believe in the power of “I don’t know. Let’s find out together.” or even “I don’t know, and no one really does.” Or better yet: “I don’t know. What do you think?”. When my 4 year old told me that “adults know everything” I was very quick to correct this dangerous and mistaken assumption.
The flip-side of this is admitting the things we do know. “I do know where the chocolate is, but I don’t want to get it out because I don’t want us to have any right now.” Or “I do know what grandma got you for your birthday, but she’d like for me to keep it a surprise”.
- Being transparent about your belief system:
Leading on from the point above is the idea of being honest about what is a belief and what is a fact. What is myth and what is history. What is truth and what is legend… and where the lines blur in each of these domains.
Sure, there are some magical childhood stories you may want your child to benefit from (Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy). Yes, you may have a faith that you want to present as factual to your child. But when a child pushes to know more “Is the tooth fairy really real?” Or “But do you know for sure that there’s heaven?”, I think it’s time to own up to what we don’t know, and explain the difference between faith and fact.
- Deep modeling of your decision making processes:
It’s extremely beneficial to children to see the deconstruction of things that appear to them like final, packaged, deals. For example: as kids we might think that the fact that our parents have jobs and make money is just a given. Like, all adults are just born accountants/ nurses/ janitors/ lawyers, and your job is just an undisputed fact.
Deconstructing how things come to be – deep modeling – means lifting the curtain and showing them why and how we make the decisions we make in our lives.
Why we live here and not there.
Why we chose to buy this book and not that one.
Why we’re cooking this food and not that one.
All of our choices are not simple as-is facts, but came to use through a very long, historical and inter-generational series of cause and effect.
We live here because our grandparents immigrated 70 years ago.
They lived there because our ancestors were brought there 200 years ago.
We eat this food because our country grows this type of plant.
You get the picture.
Authentic parenting means digging a little deeper to find the nuggets of genuine truth (subjective as that truth may be).
When do you feel the most pressure to parent inauthentically? What would change right now, today, this year if you took steps to cultivate authenticity in your parenting? Share your journey with us in the comments below.