Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I will never do it the way my parents did!
Child: You are the worst mom in the whole entire world!
Mom: If I had ever talked to my parents that way I would have no teeth left!
Have you ever found yourself uttering these words? We are raising our children in a very different world than we were raised. I remember what it felt like to hear the threat of getting “the belt”, so scary that my sisters and I would comply without ever actually seeing the belt. Sometimes, we were “shamed” into submission and humiliated to make us comply with the rules, at home and sometimes even at school.
Today, we are encouraged to listen to our kids and validate their feelings. We are more aware that it is not only about the discipline tools but how they are delivered that shape our kids. The lines between being open and allowing disrespect start to get a little bit blurry.
Do you ever wonder if you are doing it “right” when it comes to raising your own kids? I know deep down inside that I don’t want to parent the exact same way my parents did it. I want to take what I appreciated about their parenting and somehow mix it with this new version of parenting I am learning. But, is it realistic to expect the same instant compliance my parents got out of me, if the method I am using is totally different? It stands to reason that if the method is different the results would be too.
What I know so far is that my child knows without a doubt that she is always good and that her heart is good. That is the nature of who she is. She knows that she sometimes chooses to make poor choices that her dad and I don't approve of but she is ALWAYS intrinsically good. We disapprove of her behavior, not of her as a person. I know so far, she trusts her home as a safe place for her to completely fall apart when she has been holding it together all day at school. Do you ever hear people praise your kids for the way they behave at school and you wonder if they are talking about the same hooligans you see at home?
Don't get me wrong: we have rules in our home and there are natural consequences. My daughter knows how to push our buttons and while she does that, I am reminded that she may be pushing the buttons but she “didn’t install the system”. She knows that her anger is OK with me. It is my responsibility to teach her to use tools to deal with that anger which don't include hurting herself or hurting someone else. It is my job to help her figure out how to navigate those intense emotions and how to find a place for them.
In those moments when her emotions take over and she behaves short of the disturbed the child on the “Exorcist” I sometimes forget and take personal the things she may say in anger. I forget to ask myself; “what is she trying to communicate?”, “is she tired”? “Is she coming down with a cold”? “Is she feeling stressed out?” It all seems to happen so fast.
Have you had the pleasure yet to hear your child say things like “I hate you” or “you are the worst mommy in the world”? It can be a shock to your parenting “ego".In those emotionally charged moments I need to remember that she loves me and that she is a child figuring out the world around her. Yet it still hurts and the words do sting. I have discovered that not “reacting” but instead “responding” to her outburst works well for us. If I remain calm I make sure only one of us is having a melt-down!
Raising children in this new, more open, more balanced way is not easy. It requires a lot more work, patience, and more focus than pulling the “infamous belt” ever would. Do I hear some parents afraid of spoiling their kids or being too soft? Sure. Is this kinder, non-reactive, strength-based approach perfect? Not by a long shot. But I feel privileged for the opportunity to give it a try!