Reframing the Golden Rule in Parenting.

Via Gina Osher
on Mar 28, 2012
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Me at around three years old.

 Treat your children as if they are you at the same age.

“By parenting them as you wish to have been parented yourself, you are healing your own (still wounded) inner child while preserving the authenticity of the little one right in front of you. Win-win.”

The Golden Rule. I remember exactly where I was when my father first told me to “do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

I remember learning later in life that I should remember to treat my children as I would treat a friend. You would never yell at a friend that they should “Sit down now!” would you?

In therapy, we are often told that triggers stem from unresolved issues we had as children. When triggered, our brain looks for a “match” for how we are feeling in the moment and we are instantly transported back to feeling like our four-year old self.

A couple of days ago, a reader left a comment on my blog. It said that when she has a tough time dealing with her children’s behavior, she steps away, takes five deep breaths, and puts a positive image of her child in her mind.

After that, something started clicking for me and then yesterday, I read the above quote by Lu Hanessian and it all came together.

This is our daughter, when she was just shy of four. We look a bit alike, no?

I’ve written before about our daughter, who is like me in so many ways. She triggers my anger so often, but why? I love her so deeply and I am constantly impressed by the complex things she already understands. She’s incredibly creative, wonderfully generous and kind— she’s also confident and holds firm in her opinions, which I tell myself will serve her well later in life, and yet, she makes me completely batty sometimes.

Last night, she lost it at the dinner table and kept playing with her food and taunting her brother and not listening, not listening, not listening.

I kept calm for what felt like ages and suddenly I couldn’t hold it together anymore. In that moment, I forgot that she is only four; I forgot that she was overtired; I forgot that she may have had a day where she was told what to do all day long. More importantly, I seemed to forget the person behind the behavior. 

I got past my own tantrum after a minute or two, apologized, explained, helped her calm down. She forgave me as her wise, little self always does. But later, I was still thinking about it. I mulled over Lu’s powerful words—if she were me, was that how I would want to be treated?

This morning, I read the following paragraph from Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting:

“In some sense our children have to feel us holding on to them, no matter what repugnant (to our mind) spells come over them no matter what dark disguises they try on. This mindful holding on comes not out of a desire to control them, or to hold them back, or to cling to them out of our own neediness, but out of a commitment to be appropriately present for them no matter what, to let them know that they are not alone, that we have not lost sight of who they are or what they mean to us.”

These times when I get so frustrated and feel actual anger toward my children are moments when clearly I am not mindful. These are moments when I lose sight of the golden rule. I lose sight of who I am talking to and what they mean to me.

I know this because as soon as I “snap out of it” and come to my senses I feel so horrible and so remorseful. Even now, as I think about last night, I wonder how I can get so angry.

I am still searching for the answer to this.

It’s like a switch that flips. I am able to stay calm, present and understanding for a certain amount of time and then I lose it and become just like a furious five-year old.

I know that a strong reaction to behavior in others is often really just a rejection of that same behavior in yourself. Is it possible that my little girl, feisty and strong-willed, has behaviors that I am not comfortable with in myself? Is it possible that when she exhibits her moodiness I shut down because I see that as unloveable in myself?

That feels real to me. And that feels so terribly sad.

“And isn’t it true for all of us that when we are feeling lost, sad, and often quite toadlike, it helps enormously to feel that the people closest to us are still our allies, are still able to see and love our essential self?”

~ Everyday Blessings

To not accept this part of my daughter or myself is to say that it is not ok to be moody, temperamental or crabby. To not be allowed the full range of one’s emotions feels like dying a little inside. And so, I continue to work on my practice of remaining mindful, forgiving myself just as I forgive my children.

Do unto others as I would have them do unto me.


Prepared by Lorin Arnold & Brianna Bemel


About Gina Osher

Gina Osher, the daughter of world-wandering hippies, is a former holistic healer turned parenting coach and mother of boy/girl twins. She is also the author of the blog, The Twin Coach in which she offers advice, bares her soul, works though her imperfect parenting moments and continues on her journey to be a more joyful parent. Gina is dedicated to helping others find both a deeper understanding of themselves and a stronger connection to the children they love.


31 Responses to “Reframing the Golden Rule in Parenting.”

  1. Lorin says:

    Thanks for this, Gina!

    Posted to Elephant Family on Facebook and Twitter.

    Lorin Arnold
    Blogger at The VeganAsana
    Team leader for Elephant Food and Elephant Family

  2. Mommy Of two; Kayla says:

    Thanks for writting this. I read things like this all day. But for some reason….I felt a connection to yours.

  3. This is so true! You see aspects of your kids that remind you of yourself. I have to remind myself that my daughter is her own person, with a few of my traits as opposed to me with a few of her own traits.

  4. Kayla, that actually is a huge compliment. Thank you so much!

  5. That is such a good point, Christina! I think many parents just see their children as carbon copies of themselves. I'm going to remember that distinction.

  6. Thank YOU, Lorin! I really appreciate you sharing the post.

  7. Great post. I am the same way. When I look at pictures of my kids when they were babies, it always reminds me that they are just that — my babies. And I feel terrible for disliking anything about them, for getting mad at them. When I lose it, I always feel terrible. I keep telling myself to try harder. Maybe just to imagine myself in their shoes will help. Thanks.

  8. Great post! I love reading pieces like this as it keeps me in the place I want to be as a parent.

  9. I know what you mean, Lindsay. Whenever I look at my kids sleeping I think to myself "how could I ever have been so mad at that sweet child?" It's tough, but I always say to myself that it's actually a good thing I am so aware of my behavior…at least I can work on improving my reactions! 🙂 Thanks for your note.

  10. Thanks, Donna! I think that's the same reason I write pieces like this. 🙂

  11. Sarah says:

    Wonderful post, Gina. I love how the sentiments of the post can be captured by your simple but powerful opening line, "Treat your children as if they are you at the same age." I can always take this with me, to ground me when I'm losing it, and to empower me to make better choices. It's the perfect mantra to breathe in and out and live by.

  12. Katie Hurley says:

    Those moments can be so difficult. I try to step back for a second, literally and figuratively, while I try to pinpoint the possible reasons for the behavior. There is always a reason, but sometimes they just need help verbalizing it.

  13. Ana Martin del Campo says:

    Thank you Gina! It help me a lot. I always love the way you write, but this is incredible because it happen to me the same way.

  14. Ana, you are so kind. Thank you! And I am so glad this post resonated so much with you. 🙂

  15. It's hard to always remember that idea, but I have found that even having it in the back of my head really helps…it pops into the forefront in the hardest of times with my kids. Like a little voice in my head. That concept as well as the idea of remembering that my kids are doing the best they can in every moment really, really help me keep my cool. 🙂

  16. I agree with you, Katie. There is definitely always a reason. And stepping away when I am so triggered, so I can collect my thoughts and once again be present & helpful, is often necessary.

  17. Ben_Ralston says:

    Beautiful Gina – my kind of writing. Honest, open, and searching.
    I'll share something very quickly – pressed for time.
    My 1 yr old son poked me in the eye, and it triggered 2 things – 1, Huuuuge anger, and 2, a very vivid memory of being extremely young and kicking my Dad in the balls (by mistake). Dad got Huuuuugely angry with me…
    My work as a healer / trauma therapist has shown me that often the stuff that triggers us (like the above, and what you write about) is really just unresolved trauma in us. And it can be ancestral – so even if your parents treated you very well, there can be trauma from G'parents.
    Keep up the good work!
    With love, Ben

  18. Ben, thank you so much for sharing! What you bring up is SO true for me and I write about it often. I know that when I am so triggered by my children (and when my anger is so disproportionate to the "offense") that it really has nothing to do with the present moment. The hard part for me is connecting to that logic BEFORE I blow my top. 🙂
    Thank you so much for your note,

  19. […] don’t have real children (yet). But I do have a few hypothetical ones. And when I’m starting to forget the things I […]

  20. Serenewinds says:

    Thank you so much for this beautiful piece. It echoed true in my case, and the underlying reasons for why behavior by children or friends would make me snap out of reason!! Thank you so much.

  21. You're so welcome, serenewinds. I'm so glad it resonated with you. Figuring out why things trigger me so much has really helped me be more of the type of parent I want to be. 🙂

  22. KristinSLuce says:

    You said, "I forgot that she may have had a day where she was told what to do all day long."

    This line really got me. We forget what it is to be a child in a "big person" world–even though we were one once. Beautiful how you notice, and remember what it was to be a real person, when small… Thank you for this lovely article!

  23. shirley says:

    I have read this article three times now. I'm a teacher and a soon to be parent. Teachers have so many moments I assume are similar to parenting, except we see so many students each day, our nerves wear thin and sometimes we end up saying things we regret. When I'm away from my students (even the ones who get on my nerves) I think of all the things I love about them, but when I am faced with handling tough situations while tired and frustrated, I often focus on the things I don't like about individual students… I want to work on remembering who they are as a person instead of judging the behavior. "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" is the golden rule for a reason 🙂

  24. Thank you so much for the note, Kristin. You are right, we so often forget what it's like to be so small, with everything ahead of us to learn. I think, too, when children are particularly smart or verbally advanced, it's even harder to remember that they are just kids. I often notice that I expect too much of my children…and forget that they have only been alive for 5 years! 🙂
    – Gina

  25. Being a teacher brings such a different perspective on childhood I would think. I can't imagine being "mother" to 12 (or more) kids at one time! I think we all do things we regret when we are tired and frustrated. I have so much respect for teachers who are able to do it year after year with dedication and passion. I love your practice of thinking about what you love about each child when you are away from them! Thank you for your note…it means a lot to me!

  26. Ilda Zawistowski says:

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  27. Thank you so much for your note, Ilda. You are so kind. And I'm glad it was helpful!

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