Is your parenting style helping your child, or harassing your child?
Have you every had this thought? “I was a fantastic parent, before I had kids?”. Before those young, beastly, beautiful little things came into our lives, I knew I was going to be the best parent in town, and better than the rest. I really, truly believed so vehemently in myself, that if push came to shove, and not when, (see how naive I was), that not only was I going to be able to handle it, but I intuitively and intrinsically would know how, and I was going to put everyone else to shame.
I had scene after scene running through my head of a million different scenarios involving falling, fighting, sharing, bullying, throw-up, broken bones, a cold, the flu, playing Babies, sharing paints, having fun with trains, planes and automobiles, and then not, and every other imaginable and unimaginable thought you could have as a mommy-to-be, preparing herself on how to be the worlds greatest mom. And I knew I’d be that person, because I was going to love and be so in love with my kids, that no amount of anything could ever come between us, effective parenting, and family happiness. Ha! How wrong I was.
The first of three of our kids came, and whammo, reality set in. How familiar is this? I’m beyond tired all the time. That’s my life. Yours too? Being tired all the time puts your defences at an all-time low, your patience wears thin, staying power wanes, and I found I wasn’t the mother I thought I was going to be. What an eye-opener… The crying. The feedings. The crying. The short naps. The crying. This, was the fantastic concept of motherhood I had dreamed of since the age of 9? Fast forward to 3 kids later, husband working all day long, and you’ve got a recipe for s show Jerry Springer would be proud of. (Notice how I’m dating self here.) Along the way, I’ve had to make some tough realizations; I’m not super-human, I actually can ask for help (although you’ll have a helluva time trying to convince me that it’s ok to do that), and, I have a breaking point. (Kids with Aspergers, ADD, and a host of other neurological challenges will do that to ya.)
I had to learn quickly that if I was going to survive myself and my kids, and be that fantastic mother I wanted to be for them, I had to choose my parenting style, get a grip, see them for who they are, and get some sleep. I had to recognize that kids are moving sequences of always changing, always new, different, good, bad, and ugly. Nothing was static. Everything about them was transient and ever-changing, and I, we, had to roll with the punches, and change, learn and grow right along with them. Like it or not. Parenting isn’t about reacting, getting mad, or faulting our kids. Reacting, yelling and screaming, getting mad, this wasn’t going to be the parenting culture in our home.
The pitfall is that we forget how to parent. We react, fly off the handle, yell, scream, punish, get angry, and it happens all to quick. We think this behaviour is what our kids need; swift, dictatorship-like rule, with no wiggle room for negotiation, learning, understanding, or a lesson learned. This isn’t true. Our children young and older, need understanding, kind, calm, thoughtful parents, like the Brady’s, or the Cleavers. Ok, maybe this example is over-doing it, or maybe you have no clue who I’m talking about, but the bottom line is, envision who you want your kids to become, and be that person for them, to emulate, look up to, and love.
I’m a big believer in democratic parenting, of consequences, of keeping calm, responding to situations, and leading by example. Our little ones are smart. Really smart. And they’re products of their environment. So when we parent like hyena’s, yell and scream like tyrants, get mad and punish, what are we teaching them? It’s all counter-productive. Our role as parents is to guide, teach, lead, and even learn a little from them. Our kids, especially toddlers, are ever-changing, and we have to change with them. As parents, we need to keep a close eye and young adults. As an Adlerian, I’m big on democratic parenting. When we involve our children in choice and decision-making, we are empowering them, and showing them that they have influence on the world around them. This skill they’ll have to know as they grow older into adulthood, and have to start making decisions of their own. Parenting is tricky business—it requires its own set of skills, techniques, and methods, all of which should be backed by reason, thoughtfulness, understanding, calm, and the common goal of teaching them how to do it better or differently next time, so the outcomes wand rewards will be more of an advantage, and happier to all.
So, ditch the dictator in you for a more pleasant, reasonable and understanding democratic parent and family home. You may just find your toddler or older child listening better, complying more, and maybe even flipping out a little bit less.
Parent Happily, and Happy Parenting.