Posted: Tue 03rd Feb 2015 16:02
(hint: it is nothing to do with your child changing their behaviour!)
Did you bite someone's head off today? Let's talk about solutions!
I am a parent of two girls. One is nearly 8 months old and one is nearly 8 years. I LOVE the age gap. They both love each other so much and have an amazing relationship, one that I did not think was possible!
I try to be a conscious parent. In doing this, this does not mean by any means that I am a perfect parent. It just means that I am aware of my actions, I try to improve my parenting skills and I bring myself to account when I feel I have parented in a way that could have been (much) better.
What does 'bringing myself to account mean?' It simply means that I reflect on my own actions and behaviour and try to find a way to improve. This could be with my mindset. That I need to go to bed earlier. That I need to be more present and not on my iPad when my child comes home from school. That I was grumpy and that had an effect on my daughter's behaviour - she wasn't just in a grumpy mood for no reason - that sort of thing!
I have worked with hundreds of children over the last twenty years as a teacher and had my own class of 12 three-year olds when I lived in China. I marvelled at how much I was able to stay in control and adopt some pretty fabulous techniques whilst working with my 12 babies. And how for some reason, at home, it is not always that easy!
There are SO many reasons why you might be on a short fuse today. It could be that your child is pushing your buttons and repeatedly asking for something in the shop when you have answered them quite a few times already.
It could be that they are singing really loudly and it just annoys you... because you are on your computer.
It could be that your child accidentally bumps your younger child's head and you over worry so end up talking loudly rather than kindly.
It could be that in the rush of the morning school run, you find you have been barking, instead of talking for the last hour and that your stress levels are through the roof. Every sound, every whine, every THING is set to make you blow a fuse.
OK... we can calm down. Really... give yourself a little moment to re-group your thoughts and figure out what is really going on here.
We often attribute blame to another person, including our own children. When we look to each situation, can we ask ourselves the following?
Was I totally present for my child?
Did I remember that she is a young human, with less life experience?
Did I speak sarcastically or with a mean undertone?
Is the reason why my child is shouting right now/blowing a fuse/expressing anger because he/she has seen this recently in our home?
Is she reflecting back what I have been giving back?
None of us our perfect. Own that right now. It is impossible to be this perfection. But, a little bit of perfect comes into play when we really own our behaviours.
Here is what I learned recently.
Without realising, I had been nagging my 7 year old daughter. I had been impatient with her. I was blaming all her negative behaviour on her, and not reflecting on my own.
I said a prayer... 'Create in me a pure heart, O my God and renew a tranquil conscience within me, O my Hope..."
These words echoed in my mind and instantly allowed me to feel peace. I sat on my bed, in the dark, and reflected over the previous few days. I saw my little girl getting more and more impatient. And how frustrated I was getting with her. And how every night, I felt sad that I hadn't listened more, been more attentive and had been in pain for a few days so had snapped and spoken not as nicely as I could have done.
Children like to feel safe and whilst it is totally implausible to think that a parent could never show any emotion, I believe, from my own trial and error, working with hundreds of children and being a mum of two, that when we are calm and centred, a child may still try to test the boundaries and push buttons but if they are in that arena of total calm and safety and feeling really respected, then situations can diffuse MUCH quicker than if the parent is reactive, aggressive and angry back.
Think about a child who is being struck. They want to defend themselves. Their natural instinct will be to hit back. If we shout at a child, consistently (not because they are in danger) then our child will find it much easier to shout. If we are sarcastic to the child, we must not be surprised when our child offers sarcasm back. The difference is... we are 'allowed' to do all of those things (or we 'do' them - striking a child is not permissible in our home and is banned in several countries) and display those behaviours but our children are not? Shouting, blaming, demeaning... all of these behaviours we can display can be just as damaging as hitting, if displayed and practiced continuously and over time.
I am all for problem-solving and finding solutions.
You might be a parent who is at their wits end. I promise you... this can change. But... you have to be willing to bring YOURSELF to account, sit in a space by yourself to reflect and see what can be changed.
Here are some changes I made recently and wow! Our home has gone from being stressy and frustrating as hell to an environment of calm and order... in the space of a day! Parenting is a constant work of art, isn't it?! We all have our down days and moments. But if we try this 'bringing ourselves to account' a little more often, we can become better parents and our children will then see a real reflection of the what is to come and how the world can actually be a beautiful place. When we are adults, we consult, we reflect. We say sorry. Never be afraid to look your child in the eye directly and say those words, 'I am sorry'. Don't be afraid to know that you made a mistake. Be confident that just as the wind can change direction in an instant, so can all of us.
The clock is ticking and you know you only have a limited time left to get ready for the school run. Your child is taking her time putting on her clothes.
You want to say: 'Hurry up/why aren't you dressed yet? Don't you know you're going to be late for school?'
Try instead: 'How are you doing? I see you have your tights on - great! Can I help you get ready? or 'Doing well... let's see if we can get ready before I count to 60 so we can be on time for school! Yay!'
What is the worst thing that could happen here? If you are late... then so be it. This will be a time to reflect as a family and consider getting up earlier, be more prepared the night before and being totally honest... is it my child's fault we are late? Did I need to nag for the entire morning before school? What can change for tomorrow?
It is bedtime and your child is drawing and engaged in an activity. You are tired and want some 'you' time. You want to say "Bed time -now! Come on, let's go... quickly!"
This will inevitably be met with a negative reaction because your child is mid-activity and they have had no warning. Think of them as a human, not just as your child who won't do what they are told. Try this instead:
"Hey (name)! I see you're drawing! Great! You have five more minutes and then we're packing up to get ready for bed."
This is more likely to be met with an "Ok!" You can reinforce what you said to make sure they understand, use a timer or bring their attention to the time on the clock. "Just to make sure... you have five more minutes - see, when the big hand reaches the five? Then we go and get ready for bed."
You need to make sure that in five minutes, you then carry this through. Your child might protest... if they don't, then be sure to make mention that you appreciate them helping and using their initiative. Perhaps as a reward they could have an extra five minutes tomorrow night to draw.
If they react, stay strong, stay calm. Raising your voice and shouting and whining will only invite the same response back as the child will perceive fear, emotion, tiredness... and they will try to continue to push. Children thrive on order with many aspects of life, and within that order, there is a lot of freedom. You can point this out.
Over the last few days, there have been a few times when I have asked our daughter to do something and she hasn't yet I remained calm and assertive and loving throughout. I mentioned a couple of times that there would be a consequence.
The same conversations last week were inviting tears, tantrums and more! But when I reflected, this was all actually invited by me! Tone of voice is KEY here!
I want this post to be honest and true. And I totally believe from this experience that I have learned such a lot!
Bringing ourselves to account is not only OK... it is crucial to us having a happy, healthy home. For instance... did we allow our children to stay up late last night? And eat a tonne of sugar? Then we need to own that and let their grumpiness and feeling irritable be comforted. And then return to an earlier night with less sugar and more grounding foods.
It feels SO freeing to have this mindset and really... the results have been astounding! I have always seen myself as a pretty good parent and sometimes, a bloody awful parent. But the bringing myself to account for my own behaviour and then moving forward and putting into action better behaviour has brought us peace!
One final important thought. I speak from this perspective, only because it is what I know. I am married and my husband and I consult about everything. And we made these changes and decisions together, through consultation and prayer. Our whole lives are based around these two pillars which we believe help us through. You do not have to aligned with any faith to sit in stillness and think... and reflect and change ideas. Prioritise consulting with another trusted person, whether it is your wife, husband, partner, mother or friend.
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