Black millennial parents want to raise their kids differently than how they were raised. They’re rethinking the “do as I say, not as I do” model of parenting that they got from their parents. And while they’re still not their kids “little friends,” they’re putting away belts and switches in favor of actually talking and letting kids share their feelings.
It’s a part of wanting to practice conscious parenting, the school of thought that parents and children should interact in more empathetic, loving, and emotionally intelligent ways.
But for a lot of parents, it’s hard to be what you didn’t see growing up. If you came up in a home where yelling and hitting were the ways you communicated or got disciplined, it can be hard to imagine not doing the same to your kids. And it goes back even further than how you were raised: Generational trauma being what it is, many of us are actually just reliving and replicating generations of negative patterns, bad patterns, and abuse.
Social worker and licensed therapist Brandy Wells experienced this first hand when she saw how triggered she got by watching her husband father their daughters.
“He fathered beautifully,” she said in a TEDx talk. “I wanted that. I needed that. And the more I witnessed it the more pain I felt.”
As Brandy dived deeper into her career as a social worker, she realized the questions she was asking her charges—“Are you giving your child a childhood they will have to recover from?”—could apply to her, a woman who hadn’t really processed the abandonment she felt from her father’s absence in her childhood. And that through healing herself, she could become the parent she always wanted for her daughters.
“My awakening has [come] from reparenting—going back to the place where I was wronged as a child, and telling her, ‘I’m sorry that happened to you,’” she says. “I want my daughters to know that he best gift that I can give them is the gift of mending myself. I am no good to anyone if I am no good to myself.”
And by healing her trauma, she’s been able to mother from a place of freedom instead of hurt.
“It meant me giving quality time with my children versus quantities of time… It meant me apologizing for mismanaging my temper…,” she explains. “It forced me to stop using a belt and to use disciplinary strategies that were based upon teaching and modeling the behavior that I wanted to see.”
“There’s an antidote to the curse,” she says, “and it starts with you.”