This is not the post I had intended to write today. I had intended to write about some messy fun we recently had with coloured spagetti. That will keep for another time. Today I’m writing from the heart. Today I’m sharing with you how it really is. The last few days have been tough. R’s behaviour has been uncharacteristically difficult and the last two days have brought me to the brink of exhaustion and despair. I’ve been truly at my wit’s end. So how have I been handling it? In a word, badly. There is a light at the end of the tunnel however, and that’s why I’m writing this post. There are tools I use and continue to learn from every day which I want to share with you. After several days of stress and challenging behaviour, I applied a strategy today which turned everything around in an instant. An immediate resolution. I want to share with you the support system that gets me through the toughest parts of parenting and let’s face it, it IS tough. It’s exhausting. In a nutshell, it’s hard word. But the rewards! Oh, those blessed, life affirming, soul soaring, make my heart sing rewards. To be a parent is to know love and joy on a level I never thought possible. So what went so wrong lately and how did I turn it around?
For the past few days, R and I have been very disconnected. We were experiencing tantrums, crying, defiance and general moodiness that is usually unseen from him. I was feeling overwhelmed and drained which meant I was not handling the situation the way that I normally would. It had been going on for a few days and I was at the end of my tether.
Here’s what happened at lunchtime today. R is always given a choice about what he eats. Today he chose a chicken sandwich. I made him the sandwich as requested but as I made it I called out from the kitchen “I’m putting lettuce on your sandwich R, and you have to eat it. I’m sick of you not eating salad.” I also put mayonaise on the sandwich which I know he doesn’t like but I decided it would taste better – with no regard to his tastes or preferences. There are so many things wrong with how I handled making that lunch, I don’t even know where to begin. I do not usually use phrases such as “you have to…” or “I’m sick of…” and I do not usually prepare something for him that I know he doesn’t like without talking to him first about trying something new. Unsurprisingly, when I served him the sandwich, R refused to even touch it. After 15 minutes I said “Eat your sandwich. You haven’t even touched it”. “NO!” came the angry response. I was taken aback. I never hear that tone from R. Normally our conversations are calm and we can agree on a resolution to situations like this. We had planned to visit the library after lunch so I used this as leverage (Once again, this is something I never usually do – using something he enjoys to bribe him into a certain action or behaviour). Of course, it was completely ineffective. He still refused to even touch the sandwich. “We’re not going anywhere until you eat that sandwich.” He moved from his chair. My reaction? An angry “You will not move from that chair until you eat that sandwich!” I could barely believe the words as they left my mouth. This is not how we do things around here. Still, I was at the end of my tether and I couldn’t back down now. This went on for over an hour. An entire precious hour! Over a silly little sandwich! “Fine. Well I guess we’re not going to the library at all then. You will not move from that chair until you eat that sandwich. No library, no toys. Nothing. You will just sit in that chair for the rest of the day.” He clenched his fists and barked gruffly “Grrrr. This day is making me grumpy!” What he meant was “You Mummy, are making me grumpy”. I had plummeted into all sorts of behaviour and techniques that were disrespectful and which deep down I knew would be ineffectual. Behaviours that had the attitude of “I am the parent and therefore you will do what I say”. This was not me. It’s not how I parent and it was no wonder it wasn’t working. I’m not sure what made me snap out of it but as I sat there, exhausted, frustrated and just plain sad, I remembered a post I read a few days ago from Dr. Laura Markham about always coming from love. The strategy shared in that post was as simple as it gets “Choose Love”. It was a reminder of everything I believe in as a parent and all the principles I usually follow. Immediately I knew what I needed to do. I felt a sense of calm flood over me and I had found my way again. I took R in my arms, spoke softly and sincerely and looked directly into his eyes as I said “I know you don’t like the sandwich, and I’m sorry that you’re frustrated, but it’s the lunch I’ve made and as soon as you finish it, we can go to the library, ok?” And what do you think happened? Silently, calmly, immediately, R sat down and ate the sandwich! Just like that. After more than an hour of arguing and poor behaviour (from me) and stress, all it took was coming from a point of love. Uusing a calm, respectful tone. Viewing the situation from R’s point of view and acknowledging his feelings.
Suddenly the cause of the problem from the last few days became clear to me. I had been focusing all the negativity on R. He was being defiant and unco-operative. He was throwing tantrums. He was crying all the time over things that would not normally upset him, and never listening to anything I said. I had wondered what was causing this uncharacteristic behaviour in my usually calm, co-operative and loving boy. I had been looking to him for the cause, when what I needed to do was look inwards. I needed to assess my own behaviour. There are a few events coming up for me which are causing me stress and I was allowing this stress to spill out as fustration and short temperedness and my gentle parenting techniques flew out the window. I had not been applying any of the parenting principals in which I believe so strongly, which I normally adhere to and which I know really work. I just needed to stop and look at my own behaviour to know why R’s was so off recently.
So what are these tools and techniques? What is the support system that has seen me through the tough side of parenting and which helped me re-focus and get things back on track with R so quickly today? Well, there are quite a few principals and techniques I use, which of course could not all be covered in one post, and certainly not in the brief paragraphs that I have written below. I’ll share my experiences of using these principles in real life situations, how they have worked for me, and why I believe in them so strongly in future posts. For now though, if you feel lost in a constant round of battles with you children, and you feel as though you are just not “getting through” to them, I hope the links below will be a starting point for you in finding a sense of calm and joy in your parenting. I am not saying I’m a perfect parent and these are the things you should do and all your problems will be over. The above description of my last few days is proof that I’m far from perfect and that I’m not always mindful of these principles. That’s my whole point in writing this. I make mistakes and I fall short. The ideas and websites that I’ve listed below have helped me along my way and perhaps they might help you too.
So here is the list of principles that I have found to be truly helpful in acheiving a state of peaceful parenting. They have helped our family to avoid tantrums or to diffuse them quickly if they do occur.
For me, mindful parenting means looking inwards and keeping myself in check. It means learning to recognise the stressors in my life and dealing with them effectively so that my stress, fatigue and anxiety does not spill over to my parenting.
Coming from a point of love.
Parenting is less about how your child behaves than it is about how you react to that behaviour. React from a place of empathy and love.
Viewing situations from my child’s point of view.
When I am committed to seeing a situation from R’s point of view, instead of just my own, things are much easier to resolve. My frustration is eliminated and R is calmer because he feels heard and understood.
Acknowledging and validating my child’s feelings.
This has been the most powerful tool I have learned and it is the easiest to apply. When R is crying, or frustrated and on the verge of a tantrum, I simply make a statement acknowledging and validating his feelings. Statements like “I know you are frustrated right now”, or “I understand you are sad because…” or “It’s ok to cry”, “It’s ok to feel sad”, “It’s ok to feel frustrated” can turn a situation around in an instant.
Here are my sources of inspiration and education on mindful, peaceful and gentle parenting. There are many wonderful books, websites an blogs that I read and learn from, but these are the ones I read every day. The ones that have impacted me hugely.
Dr. Laura Markham at AhaParenting
I found AhaParenting almost two years ago, at a point when I really needed it, and it turned things around for me in an instant. Every single article from Dr.Markham is helpful and inspiring. Her parenting advice is practical and effective, and comes from a place of the deepest love and respect. Her positive parenting strategies have been invaluable to me and they are at the core of who I am as a parent. You can find her on Facebook or at AhaParenting.
This site is a constant sourc of inspiration. They share a wealth of practical advice on ways to connect with your kids. Here is their Facebook page and here is the Positive Parenting website.
OK, so not a parenting site as such, but Teacher Tom knows kids. He has helped me see the world from a preschooler’s point of view. There is joy and inspiration in everything he writes. If you are not already familiar with his blog, please do check it out. Teacher Tom is on Facebook and his blog is HERE.
Let’s Lasso the Moon
Let’s Lasso the Moon is a constant source of inspiration for me. Zina is always reminding me to notice the details, to see beauty in the everyday, to be curious and passionate. Her mission to keep the light of curiosity in our children’s eyes and foster their love of learning is something I have felt passionate about even before I became a mother. Visit Let’s Lasso the Moon on Facebook, via the Let’s Lasso the Moon website, or see Zina’s Lifetime Love of Learning Boards on Pinterest.
Picklebums is one of the few blogs that I read each and every day regardless of how busy I am. I follow hundreds of blogs, so it’s impossible to read all of them every day but I never miss a single post from Picklebums. Kate has a way of just telling it like it is that is reassuring, inspiring and usually very funny. You can find Picklebums online here or on Facebook.
The Golden Gleam
Rebekah at The Golden Gleam has a magical series call “Joy in Minutes”. The posts in this series are short and sweet and offer simple ways to find joy in the little moments. A new series has also begun on The Golden Gleam called “We Get It” where parents share their experiences of challenging parenting situations and how they have coped. Click HERE for the Joy in Minutes series and Click HERE for the “We Get It” series. The Golden Gleam can also be found on Facebook.
Finally, there is my “Parenting Inspiration” Pinterest board. This is where I pin all the parenting posts I know I will want to read again and again.
I hope you will find some of these resources helpful and inspiring. Do you have a favourite parenting resource? Let’s share in the comments.
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