“The culture doesn’t think that the desire to have a family and be a parent has much to do with our ego. Far from it – it places a martyr’s halo on parents, seducing them to imagine themselves ennobled by the act of birthing a child. It’s this aspect of becoming a parent, which is a product of our ego, that leads to the feeling of owning a child. This is why we hear parents say, when an issue arises such as the harm done by spanking, ‘No one’s going to tell me what I can or can’t do with my child!'” -Dr Shefali Tsabary, Chapter 4, The Awakened Family
True words! As someone who was raised in a culture where parents are idolized as martyrs and expected to be worshipped as Gods (also promoted by religion), I am totally blown away by how articulately Dr Tsabary explains this Martyr Parent Syndrome and it’s affects on the children in Chapter 4 of The Awakened Family. A must read for anyone, more so for parents who were raised in such cultures.
Here are some of my own thoughts on this topic:
“Because I said so”
“How dare you…”
“After all that I do (or did) for you…”
“How ungrateful of you…”
“I wake up early and work hard every day to put food on your table…”
“After all the effort that I put in to cook this meal for you…”
“You will do as I say or I will punish you”
“I can’t believe how much you waste everyday. I work so hard to earn the money that pays for…”
“I worked hard all my life, making several sacrifices along the way, to raise you. Now I came to your house so that you can serve me…” (a parent to their adult child)
These are all examples of egoic parenting. To a child, these statements are useless and even detrimental to their emotional well being. I will admit that I have said some of these statements to my kids in the past. It takes effort to be aware of our own unconscious behaviors as parents and to address them.
Giving birth to a child is not a self less act. It is definitely propelled by our own egoic needs to become parents. Raising a child and making certain sacrifices along the way are also not selfless acts. We make a conscious decision (barring some exceptions) to bring a child into our lives, knowing very well the enormous responsibility this places on our shoulders (again, barring a few exceptions). So why play martyrs and make the child feel indebted to us?
This is what Dr Tsabary tries to convey in Chapter # 4. She says conscious parenting starts by debunking the myth that parenting is about the child. It’s not, it is about the parent. It doesn’t mean that parents become self-centered and egotistical. It just means that when we see certain behaviors in our children that we don’t like, conscious parents don’ t judge their child. Instead, they look within themselves to see what behaviors they are exhibiting that are reflecting in their child in unhealthy ways. Then they try to address them within themselves which automatically addresses them in their children too.
This makes a lot of sense to me. It is true that children come into this world wired in with certain temperaments but I have noticed that a lot of parents are quick to take credit for their child’s good behavior and are even more quicker to blame the child’s bad behaviors on the child’s own temperament. For example, I recently heard a father make several off-handed comments about his adult son’s perfectionistic tendencies as if he had no role to play in it. This is wrong on many levels. No kid comes wired into this world with perfectionism. This is a product of their upbringing, of years of traditional, controlling, egoic parenting. Also, only an egoic parent would exhibit such behavior with their grown children.
I believe that parents have tremendous influence in helping their children channel their temperaments the right way so that they can benefit themselves as well as the society that they live in. For example, a child who gets riled up easily needs more calm and patience from the parent. Or a child who gets distracted easily needs more focused 1:1 time with the parent. Dr Tsabary says in this chapter that how we parent our children in our homes affects the community and the society in the long run. I fully agree with this statement. It is important to keep this in our minds as we raise our children.