good parents are selfish

In almost no other area of life do destructive mental cycles and insecurities affect us as much as they do in parenting.

In The Rewired Brain, I introduce readers to a single mother who allows her son to verbally and emotionally abuse her on the basis of guilt and shame from her failed marriage.

Too often, we take into account others’ opinions and agendas before addressing our own SELF — the mental beliefs, habits, and patterns that govern our lives, often without us even realizing it. If we want to be good parents, we must recognize that addressing ourselves first is not selfish, but necessary.

If that single mother never takes the time to address her underlying shame, the abuse that rooted it, and the mental patterns that reinforce it, she will never be equipped to change the destructive cycle beginning to repeat itself in her family. Her “System 1” (something I discuss at length in The Rewired Brain) is in overdrive as a natural response to her experiences; but just because it is natural does not mean she and her children are doomed to a path of repeated abuse. She — and every one of us — has a choice!

Be it through counseling or other means, transforming your own mind and cultivating a savvy “System 2” (the counterpart to the instinctive, often unhelpful System 1 responses of the human brain) is the difference between toxic parenting and nourishing upbringing. Our instinct is to prioritize our children in all things; but to raise healthy kids, we must first be healthy parents.

While it may feel counterintuitive (because, in fact, it is!) and even wrong to this mother at the outset, investing in understanding and healing herself first will allow her to parent from a place of security and intention.

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