Parenting as a Mirror: Understanding and Using Mirroring for Healing

emotion release emotional release ert mirroring parenting Jun 06, 2024

Parenting is often described as one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences in life. Among the many techniques and strategies available to parents, the concept of "mirroring" stands out as a powerful tool for both parenting and personal healing. In this article, we will delve into what mirroring is, why it is essential, and how it can be effectively used in parenting. We will also explore the profound idea that children act as mirrors for their parents, reflecting back emotions, behaviours, and unresolved issues.

What is Mirroring?

There are multiple ways that mirroring can occur. It can be a strategy parents conciously use within their parenting journey, and it can be a a process used to identify your own inner emotional wounds, thoughts and behaviours. 

Mirroring, in the context of a parenting strategy, refers to the process of reflecting back emotions, behaviours, and expressions. This concept is rooted in the work of developmental psychologists who observed that infants learn about themselves and the world through the responses and reflections they receive from their caregivers. When a parent mirrors a child's emotions, they validate and acknowledge the child's internal experience, helping them to understand and regulate their feelings.

Why is Mirroring Important in Parenting?

Mirroring serves several critical functions:

  • Emotional Validation: By reflecting a child's emotions, parents validate their feelings, helping the child feel understood and accepted.
  • Emotional Regulation: Consistent mirroring helps children learn how to manage and regulate their emotions over time.
  • Building Self-Awareness: Mirroring helps children develop a sense of self by seeing their emotions and behaviours reflected back to them.
  • Strengthening the Parent-Child Bond: Through mirroring, parents demonstrate empathy and understanding, which strengthens the emotional bond between parent and child.

How to Practice Mirroring In This Way

Practicing mirroring as a parenting strategy to help your child involves several steps:

  1. Observation: Pay close attention to your child's emotions and behaviours. Notice the subtle cues that indicate what they might be feeling.
  2. Reflection: Reflect back what you observe in a non-judgemental and empathetic manner. For example, if your child is upset, you might say, "I can see that you're feeling really sad right now."
  3. Validation: Validate your child's feelings by acknowledging their experience. You might add, "It's okay to feel sad. I'm here with you."
  4. Support: Offer support and comfort, helping your child navigate their emotions. This might involve comforting them physically, offering words of encouragement, or helping them find solutions to their problems.

Children as Mirrors

Children, in many ways, act as mirrors for their parents. They reflect back not only the behaviours and attitudes they observe but also the unresolved emotional issues and patterns that parents carry. Here are some ways in which children serve as mirrors:

  • Reflecting Emotional States: Children often pick up on and mirror the emotional states of their parents. If a parent is anxious or stressed, the child may exhibit similar emotions or behaviours.
  • Highlighting Unresolved Issues: Children's behaviours can highlight unresolved issues within parents. For example, a child's tantrum might trigger a parent's own unresolved anger or frustration from their past.
  • Mirroring Relationships: The way children interact with their parents can reflect the dynamics of the parent’s own relationships. For instance, a child's resistance to authority might mirror the parent's own struggles with authority figures.

Using Mirroring for Healing as an Adult

Recognising that children act as mirrors offers a unique opportunity for personal growth and healing for parents. Here’s how parents can use this concept to their advantage:

  1. Self-Reflection: When a child's behaviour triggers a strong emotional response, take a moment to reflect on why this behaviour is so triggering. What unresolved issues or past experiences might be influencing your reaction?
  2. Emotional Processing: Use the insights gained from self-reflection to process and heal unresolved emotions. This might involve having an ERT session, practising mindfulness, or engaging in other forms of emotional healing.
  3. Modelling Healthy Behaviours: As you work on your own emotional health, model healthy emotional regulation and coping strategies for your child. Children learn a great deal from observing their parents.
  4. Open Communication: Foster open and honest communication with your child. Discuss emotions and behaviours openly, helping them understand that it’s okay to feel and express a wide range of emotions.

Practical Tips for Parents

  • Stay Present: Be present with your child, giving them your full attention when they are expressing emotions or dealing with challenges.
  • Practise Empathy: Show empathy and understanding, even when your child’s emotions seem irrational or overwhelming.
  • Avoid Judgement: Refrain from judging or dismissing your child’s feelings. Instead, acknowledge and validate their emotional experience. They don't need to be shamed by telling them they are greedy, lazy or any other judgmental word (you can actually look back on yourself and see where those judgments are coming from within you). Act as more of a commentator on what is actually happening. For example, you look really angry and so you hit your brother and then ran away, rather than you are so naughty for hitting your brother even if your angry that is a bad thing to do.
  • Use Calm and Clear Communication: Communicate in a calm and clear manner, helping your child understand their emotions and behaviours without feeling criticised or shamed.
  • Be honest: Kids can really feel our energy and what's going on underneath. I know if I calmly would sit with one of my kids and said I'm here for you, I can see you're angry and it's ok, he would actually get worse! He could tell that I was frustrated and impatient on the inside. I needed to be honest with himself and myself! When I would verbalise that I was angry to, he would be more likely to calm down to my level and settle in to a cuddle. We can't gaslight ourselves and our kids into believing everything is calm and fine when it clearly isn't. 

My Story: Discovering the Mirror

One afternoon, I noticed my son pushing people away when he was upset, yelling at them to leave him alone, or lashing out physically when he was mad. Initially, I felt frustrated and confused, but then I realised he was mirroring something deeper within me. He didn't want to hear me mirroring back to him at this stage, he wanted everyone to just go away!

I took a moment to reflect and saw where I was pushing people away or refusing help in my own life. I realised that I struggled with showing weakness and accepting help from others. This insight was a game-changer. I started working on these issues within myself using Emotion Release Technique (ERT). The process wasn’t always easy, but it was incredibly revealing.

By addressing my own unresolved emotional baggage, I noticed a significant shift. I became less triggered and more capable of holding space for my son’s emotions. This transformation brought more peace and calm into our home and improved my relationship with my child.


Parenting offers a unique mirror through which we can see our own unresolved issues and emotional patterns. By embracing the concept of mirroring, parents can not only help their children develop emotional intelligence and resilience but also embark on a journey of personal healing and growth. Through self-reflection, emotional processing, and open communication, parents can transform their triggers into opportunities for healing, creating a more harmonious and understanding family dynamic. Remember, the journey of healing and growth is ongoing, and each step taken benefits both parent and child.


I love helping parents smooth their parenting journey and heal themselves whilst becoming better parents! I run group ERT programs and my next one is on parenting and starts June 16th. Why not join us? Upgrade Your Parenting Life with ERT today!

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