Parent Acts: When our kids hold a mirror to our shortcomings

(CNN)When Grace Burley's daughter was 2, she sent her mom a very clear and expensive message.

"She was not at all a troublemaker, and she took my cell phone and threw it in the toilet," said Burley, a mom of two in Atlanta who is managing director of a strategic crisis firm, which means she is often fielding calls and emails when her kids are around.
    "I had to laugh," she said. "I was like, 'Yes, that is where that belongs.' "
    After some reflection, you can go back to your kids and explain why you reacted a certain way -- whether it was out of fear, guilt, shame, feelings of failure or inadequacy, whatever the reason. You also can praise your child for helping you learn more about yourself.
    "People learn better and more quickly when they feel they are also committing or contributing to the learning process of somebody else," Fisher said. "So when you have a child who is trying to teach and tell you something, you say, 'Wow, that was awesome. I loved what you taught me.' Then you are empowering them."
    In the case of Burley, the mom whose kids often tell her to pay attention to them, Fisher says she should do some self-reflection to figure out what is causing her to not be as engaged with her children as she would like to be, and then she should pose the question to her kids.
    "Are there situations where you see me check out? What are those situations?" Fisher suggested. Parents then need to be able to accept the truth from their kids and do something about it, he said. If you can't seem to change the behavior on your own, don't be afraid to ask someone else for help, whether it's a friend or a therapist, he said.

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    "As a parent, we might have every positive intention in the world to behave and be a certain way, but our behavior tells us something different, our kids are telling us something different, the world might be telling us something different, so you have to ask yourself, 'Why am I doing what I'm doing?' "
    Do your children point out your shortcomings? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv.

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