Last weekend I was one of 850 people in my local community that participated in the National Walk for Kids Help Phone, celebrating this amazing organization’s 20th year and raising, within just our small group, approximately 210,000 in pledges!

I was so grateful to be a part of this special event as I have so much compassion for the kids who had placed over 2 million calls last year reaching out to talk about their feelings and issues. It saddens me and yet at the same time doesn’t surprise me that a percentage of these children didn’t feel safe enough in their own homes to express themselves.

I have been and always will be committed to help the many children who can’t find their voice with their parents. If we are controlling or are easily angered or disappointed in our kids, they won’t feel safe to share their feelings with us, especially if it is an issue they have with us!

My wish is for every child to feel safe to share anything and to feel good about who they are, and that hopefully one day we won’t have a need for a help phone! In support of all of these kids and with it being a few days before Mother’s Day, I have enclosed an article that I published many years ago that speaks to this; yet whose relevance is no less important today.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are privileged and continue to be an inspiration for your children and your families!

Breaking the Cycle

When I was younger, I always knew that I wanted to be two things in life…a teacher and a mom. The first came true for me as I taught swimming throughout my high school and university summers. In 1991, after 3 long years of trying, I finally realized my dream of being a mom! Giving birth to my daughter, this beautiful bundle of love and joy was an unforgettable moment in my life, as was the miraculous birth of my son just 19 months later. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I realized that my most sought after desires were so connected.

As my children grew through the infancy, toddler, nursery, grade and middle school years, I began to see how important a role model I was for them and did the best I could with the knowledge that I had, however the increased stress that accompanied this new role was sometimes difficult and I believed at that time that it was my children who caused some of the stress and discontentment in my life!

One day, I sent my son to his room for misbehaving and he was so mad at having to stay in his room that he began to slam his door…repeatedly! I could feel my blood boiling as I rushed to the bottom of the stairs and yelled at the top of my lungs for him to stop! I realized in that moment that I was acting in a way I vowed that I never would with my children, but something came over me that was so strong and uncontrollable that I couldn’t stop…I lost it!

I remember another experience with my daughter when she was 3. She had very proudly made her bed before going to nursery school and as I went about my morning routine, I straightened out her bed. My godmother was visiting us and as she witnessed what I had done, she said, “Don’t you think she’s going to notice that she didn’t make her bed that way when she gets home? What she will take from that is that she didn’t make it good enough for you. Who needs the bed neat and tidy, you or her?” She then commented, “There is no need to worry Jo-Anne, by the time she is thirty she will know how to make up a bed!” I laughed at the silliness but also saw the huge message that I was sending my daughter. The notion of having to be perfect was my issue!

I remember so many times where I might have had a rough day at work, was so exhausted from running on the treadmill of life, frustrated with having to do it all myself as a single mom or was heavy with worries about money or relationships issues. My kids might have wanted to share something exciting with me, needed some attention or were maybe fighting with each other and I would react by either yelling at them or withdrawing. Then I would feel guilty for my behavior, but it was too late, the damage had already been done. I love my children with all my heart and my intention was never to hurt them.

Others have shared similar experiences with me and I have so much compassion for them as I know that I too was behaving the only way I knew how. I have witnessed both privately and publicly the emotional and physical abuse that takes place on a regular basis in our world and we need to do something to break this cycle.

We teach our children how to behave by our example and the cycle we are continuing could be one that we learned as a child. We have long forgotten or maybe buried how we felt as children when we were yelled at, scolded, felt the disapproval, disappointment or lack of love from our parent. I believe our children are experiencing the same thing now and they can’t find their voice, any more than we could, to maybe say to us, “Please don’t yell at me, that doesn’t feel good.” or “ Mom, dad, why are you always disappointed in me?” “Why won’t you listen to me?” “Why can’t you love me just the way I am?”

I know that my life became easier and less stressed when I took responsibility for my feelings and saw how I imposed those feelings onto my kids. The control, resentment, projection of anger, the shutdown, disapproval and disappointment all because they weren’t doing or behaving the way I thought they should. In wanting to be the best parent I could be, I started to take a good look within myself and through the eyes of my children. My mentor helped me to see how I could have done things differently and how my behavior and reactions impacted how they behaved…not only as children, but would also serve as a template for them when they became parents themselves. I saw how I was a container of all sorts of feelings that I had never felt safe enough to express and when my children or anyone else for that matter triggered me, all of those unfelt emotions exploded out of me and I of course blamed them! I had continued a cycle of unhealthy behavior and I wanted to do it differently.

I am no different than any other parent and thought I was doing a great job, and I was! I was doing the best I could with what I knew. My children and I now joke about the fact that they didn’t come complete with a manual and I fully admit to them that I’m not perfect! I am open to listening to my children now, and when they feel me getting agitated (remember I’m not perfect!) or my “recovering control freak” side starts to rear it’s ugly head, my children feel safe to point it out, which reminds me that I am stepping back into my old patterns. This is my issue to take care of and to let go of. It feels good to be able to laugh now at my own behavior and I am grateful and I continually thank my children for sharing their observations.

There is a familiar phrase that says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Our children can teach us so much if we let them express themselves, and create a safe place for them to share their feelings and try not to take it personally or as a sign of disrespect or back talk.

I can honestly say that I don’t yell at my kids anymore. I am so blessed to have such wonderful children as we all are…they are such gifts and mine taught me how to look at and take ownership of how I showed up in life. Once I shifted everything in my life did! It’s an ongoing process for me to healthily take care of my emotions and it is so clear to me now that my ultimate desire of being a mom and a teacher had to be in that order. To learn how to be the best mom I could be so that I could teach my children and this has inspired our family to Break the Cycle.

Make 2009 your year to become physically and emotionally fit!


Author's Bio: 

As a personal trainer for emotional fitness, author, speaker and awareness coach, Jo-Anne Cutler is passionately committed to inspiring and empowering others to find more peace and happiness in their lives by becoming emotionally fit and in her role as a child advocate, empowering others to be the conscious connected parents, teachers and role models our children need them to be. She has created an audio program called Breaking the Cycle, is in the process of writing her own book, is a certified coach using The Inner Workout™ and is also the agent/manager for Colleen Hoffman Smith who created this transformational emotional fitness program. Jo-Anne is the author of several published articles, co-author of 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life, Vol. 2. and 101 Top Child Development and Parenting Articles. She offers private/virtual/phone coaching and consultations as well as a free monthly e-newsletter. Please visit