The Power of Love and Kindness: Healing Our Childhoods Through Parenting

Photography: HADAS Images

By Ally Grace

It’s no secret that parenting has changed. Or, is changing. I guess I’d describe it better to say that many people who are parents today are making deliberate changes from the way they themselves were parented, as they raise their own kids. They’re trying to do better. And by “better”, I don’t mean harder or meaner or more authoritarian. I mean more compassionately. Parents today are being kinder to their kids.

I think this is great! While there are regular mainstream articles coming out that brandish about the word “entitlement”, many of us have realised that these are actually positive changes; that these changes just mean giving children more respect and autonomy. “Entitlement” claims are ultimately derailment attempts; based on the belief that children are ours to hurt, disrespect, and control. I don’t take those claims seriously, and I’m not alone.

I don’t think that I will ever forget the powerlessness involved in being a child in my own family, and I think that many adults have similar memories to me. Perhaps this is fuelling these social parenting changes, as we reflect on our own childhoods and think about how it felt to be a child.

Like most people, I didn’t emerge from childhood with an understanding that the way I’d been treated was unfair. I thought that kind of treatment was inherently necessary for raising children. I thought of myself as having turned out “fine”. I even thought, of the more terrifying experiences of childhood, that being a parent must be so hard that parents were naturally and excusably “driven” to awful things. I felt that I, as a child, had simply been innately bad, wrong, and not deserving of basic respect and kindness.

That’s a lot of baggage to take into adulthood, even though I did not yet realise this. I wonder how many of us come into adulthood that way, with things to unpack that we aren’t even aware need unpacking. How many of us feel that being treated like shit as a child, doesn’t need questioning? Who else felt that they actually deserved to be mistreated?

“Entitlement” claims are ultimately derailment attempts; based on the belief that children are ours to hurt, disrespect, and control. I don’t take those claims seriously, and I’m not alone.

For me, this meant that I became an adult feeling innately unworthy. The way that I came to view myself in childhood became the lens through which I saw myself as an adult. It wasn’t fun to live this way, although I wouldn’t have known if you’d asked me. I would have held onto the belief that I was fine, great even. I had nothing to compare myself to. Having a very flimsy and conditional sense of self was really my baseline, my normal, what I had come to expect.

This all began to change when I became a parent. When I gave birth to my first child, my heart immediately grew a million times bigger and started me off on a journey of authenticity. It began my healing, my road to self-love. My road to the discovery that I deserved love and compassion, and that I always had.

My family grew, and I had more children. I saw that my children needed me. They needed love, cuddles, comfort, empathy, validation, support, guidance, and grace. They needed allowances to be made for their age, as they learned, and for the fact that they were children. I saw them learning and I realised that this was just a part of childhood.

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