There are many different aspects that go into parenting. When I use these 5 pillars as guideposts along my parenting journey I am a calmer, less-reactive, happier parent.
What do you want for your child? What do you want your relationship to be like with your kid in one year? In five years? How about in 15 years? How do you want to be as a parent? How do you usually discipline your kids? Did you know that the word discipline comes from the Latin word disciplinare, which means to teach. Yet how often we use discipline and punishment interchangeably? When we come at parenting with this idea of discipline, we see two main types of parenting: permissive and authoritarian. Neither fosters a close, connected relationship and neither promotes resilience or confidence in our children. I encourage you to allow these 5 pillars to guide you along a gentler, calmer path of parenting; the road of mindful and conscious parenting.
Yep, it all starts with kindness. Kindness for yourself, knowing you’re doing the best you can. Kindness for your kid, knowing that they too are doing the best they can. While it might seem ridiculous to say kindness is a parenting tool it is, and it may be the most important when discipline is involved. Why? Change happens when kindness is present. Think back to your own life. When you make changes from a critical, shameful place, those changes don’t last. We don’t learn. Sure we may be afraid and act from fear for a while but over time those behaviors fade away and we’re back to where we began. Also, think back to some of your awful parenting moments. If your kids face was a mirror, what would you see? If your child had a tape recorder, would you want to listen to what you said and how you sounded? Can you even remember what the issue was or what you were tying to “teach”? If you’re anything like me, probably not. In fact, I bet you’d like to think those things never happened. Problem is they did and they will continue to happen unless we change how we view parenting. We are here to teach, to model, to lead. If your kids are throwing a tantrum it is not because they want to piss you off or that they’re doing something “to” you. Rather, they don’t know what else to do. Approaching our children from the true definition of the word discipline, we enter into an open, understanding relationship with them. We don’t expect them to “know better” or to act in a different way. They are who they are and we are here to model and lead. If I yell at them when they make a mistake, I’m teaching them to be self-critical and to yell at themselves (and others) when mistakes are made. My goal as a parent is to stay connected even when disciplining, even when teaching. Being kind doesn’t mean I don’t set limits or expect certain behavior from them. I do. But I do so fro a place of kindness so I can teach from a calm place.
Remember the tree analogy from last blog? You are the nourishing dirt that strengthens their roots. You are here to pour love on the child you have been given. You are not here to change that child or mold them into some version of a mini-you to live out the childhood you always wished you had. Your child is your child and they are perfect in their imperfections. Show them you love them. Tell them you love them. Pour love on them when they don’t make the team. Pour love on them when they do make the team. Pour love on them when they get the low grade. Pour love on them when they get the high grade. You do not love them for what they do. You love them because they are here and that is enough. Unconditional love means you let go of the thought “what will other people think” and parent from a place of “what does my child need”. Unconditional love the hell out of them.
Whenever we can look at something from a place of curiosity it will neutralize the situation. Think of the last time your child threw a fit, no matter their age. If you ask yourself: “I wonder why they are doing that?” or “I wonder why they are acting like that?” you will be better able to parent than if you ask yourself “What is everyone around me going to think?” or “What does this behavior mean for my child when they’re older?”. Using curiosity about what their behavior says about them in that present moment allows you to discipline or teach calmly. Turning what’s happening into something about you or about their future self will land you in the land of reactive and out-of-control disciplining. Try it next time, get curious with what their behavior is telling you by asking yourself: Why are they acting how they’re acting? Why are they glaring at me that way? Why are they asking for me to stay in the car when I pick them up at their friend’s house? Why are they refusing to eat dinner with the family? When you can look at the things your child is doing from a place of curiosity, you will be a calmer and more connected parent. Understand that if they are acting badly, they are feeling badly. Move away from taking things so personally. Move away from thinking that their misbehavior means something about you. Close your mouth, open your ears, and put on your detective hat.
START OVER DAILY
Parents have the best intentions. We love our kids and we usually have a vision of what we want our parent-child relationship to look like. That said, life happens and the reality can look quite different than our intended vision. What to do? Start Over Daily with kindness and awareness. I routinely, often multiple times a day, ask myself: “How do I want to be as a mom right now?” and “what do my kids need from me?”. This makes me aware of two important factors:
- My own motivation: Before stepping in to teach or discipline your child, make sure you are fully aware of what’s driving your desire to change the behavior. As a parent, we are here to teach our kids and help them build life skills. Make sure that is where your motivation is coming from, versus an issue from our past or present (as discussed in the past 4 blogs).
- My Child’s Brain: No matter our child’s age, we will always be a better parent if we are aware of their brain and its’ developmental stage. Duh, right? It’s like saying that no matter our child’s grade in school, their teacher will always benefit from knowing the relevant subject matter. I will not dig into the different stages of brain development in this blog but am here as a resource for you if you’d like to do that individually. For now, please pause to ask how much you know about the brain and how it works.
Have a beginner’s mindset. Your children change all the time. Where are they right now? What are they experiencing? What are they thinking? Start over each day with the intent to be the best parent you can be.
You are responsible for how you feel. There are multiple ways to say that but the message remains the same. No one can make you angry, upset, sad, disappointed, or embarrassed without your consent. The thoughts you think create the feelings you feel. In regards to your kids and parenting, take back responsibility for how you feel. Please don’t be that parent that says: “You made me so sad because you….” or “I’m angry because you…..” Don’t let your child’s behavior dictate whether you have a good or bad day. You are an emotional adult and you are 100% in charge of how you feel. That doesn’t mean that you won’t feel angry, upset, sad, disappointed or embarrassed along you parenting journey. You absolutely 100% will. The difference is that you feel that way based on what you think about what your kids are or aren’t doing. Have the courage to step back to see why you’re reacting before interacting with your kid. A wise friend once told me: don’t misbehave because of their misbehavior. What did she mean? When my kids are misbehaving, it is not okay for me to misbehave as a parent. If they’re yelling at me that’s not permission for me to yell at them. If they’re talking rudely, I don’t get to talk rudely. Their brains aren’t fully developed. Their behavior is a sign of something they need. Remember, if they are acting badly, they are feeling badly. Same goes for you. If you are acting badly, you are feeling badly. Take control of yourself so that you don’t add fuel to the fire. I’ve written many blogs on emotional intelligence and responsibility. There’s always something to learn or a place for us to grow. Take your learner’s mindset and see why you’re reactive. Slow down when your kids are misbehaving. There’s no rush to discipline or teach. We get reactive when we feel like we have to act right away. Think of the long game: What sort of relationship do you want with your children in 1 year? In 5 years? in 15 years?
There you have it warriors, 5 Pillars to guide you and motivate you along the path of being that better parent. We’re not going for perfect but rather, learning about ourselves and our kids so that we can be a bit better than yesterday. Remember, there is no way to be perfect parent but a million ways to be a kick-ass great one.