What’s Your Gut Reaction?
How much time have you spent listening to the way that adults talk to children? Whether you’re standing at the school gates, in a supermarket queue or on a holiday beach, you can bet that you often hear the same sort of things.
“You can’t do that!” “You don’t mean that” or, my favourite “of course you like it.” And you know, these adults are only repeating to children what was said to them. So, firstly, let me start by saying don’t beat yourself up if you find that you are also telling your children what they think or what they feel or what (or who) they do or do not like.
It’s like this. Your child, at a very young age, announces that your grandmother “smells funny.” Ok, she’s getting on a bit and lavender water is no longer popular (and it no longer masks every odour). You know that she “smells funny” but why does your child have to say it out loud! Ok, she’s going a bit deaf – but your mother isn’t and she hears. Obviously she’s now thinking that you’re not brining your child up with any manners…
So, suddenly you find yourself telling your child that great-granny doesn’t smell and they are being very rude.
So, what happens next? You’re at the park, sitting with another parent from play group as your children run around the play area. They aren’t getting on too well, so you ask your child to “play nicely.” Then they announce that they don’t like this child – “he’s horrible” loudly, in the face of this child’s mother. “Oh, you don’t mean that.” And you start to apologise for your child…
I could go on, but that’s just a couple of scenarios where we tell our children not to trust what they are thinking or feeling inside. At the moment that they say granny smells funny, to them she does. But as parents we contradict that knowledge. When they say that a child is horrible, that is how they feel about that child. But then we contradict them.
As parents, teachers and other significant adults we have incredible influence in a child’s life. However, we often do exactly what was done to us. We tell the child that what they think or feel isn’t real. In an attempt to get this young person to conform and be accepted in society, we have asked them to disbelieve their own thoughts and feelings.
The result is that as a society we find it difficult to use our intuition when trying to decide what we want to do with our lives. We have been taught from a very young age that what we feel inside isn’t correct and we should look for external references to validate our feelings.
As adults we seek approval from friends, family, and colleagues before making decisions that affect our lives. It’s ok to get as much information as possible and to discuss changes with people who may be affected by them. But you also need to remember that many of these people have a vested interest in what you do or do not do in the future. Your success (or lack of it) reflects on their lives too. Get information, but don’t be afraid to listen to yourself and trust your intuition.
As I said at the beginning, don’t feel guilty about repeating patterns of parenting that have been passed down through generations. However, do try to be aware of how powerful your words are. And you’re not telling the child that their thoughts and feelings are right or wrong – you just simply need to acknowledge that they have that feeling. And then start giving yourself permission to listen to what you feel inside.
Human nature has instinct for a reason. Whether as a survival mechanism or an inner spiritual guide, it is there to help us in our lives. So, next time you want to know how you feel or what you think about something, forget the external messages and ask yourself “what’s my gut reaction to this?”