"One generation full of deeply loving parents would change the brain of the next generation, and with that, the world." - Dr. Charles Raison
If you read my last Just Write post, you may have figured out that we're taking a different direction to discipline. This has been a seed planted in our hearts when the girls were still in my womb and we started to ask questions about the type of household we wanted and the ways we would cultivate and encourage our kids to be self-reliant, responsible, and kind.
We're still really early in our journey but we're also right in the thick of early toddlerhood tantrums and it is taking everything that I have to rewire my thinking in how I respond and talk to them when they drop to the floor over the littlest things (of course, they aren't little to them, it could be the end of the world for all they know!) I feel like I should be "teaching them a lesson" at this point and helping them to see their "wrongdoing," but according to Dr. Laura Markham, this is the opposite of what I should be doing.
Dr. Markham is a psychologist and mother who created the site Aha! Parenting and is the author of Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids. I had the opportunity to go listen to her speak and, coupled with her book, our minds are being blown on a regular basis.
There are a few reasons why I want to share my journey through this book with you:
- The myth of the peaceful parent = permissive parent needs to be shattered. Yes, there are permissive parents out there, but this way is absolutely NOT permissive. Just because we aren't using physical discipline or punishments does not mean it's lax or indulgent! It is high-support, high-expectation and takes a ton of work. It's hard!
- I feel like many of us who had a more conservative upbringing (mainly Christian, sometimes non too though!) have been scared into thinking that if we don't physically discipline our kids, they will run off at 16 with their boyfriends, get drunk every weekend, and have lots of sex with every boy they meet. I have heard this argument from no less than 2 church leaders in the last month. I'm serious. And it needs to stop.
- Maybe you're a mama who has had these same thoughts but feel alone in the process, or that there is no other way. You are not alone. Let's do it, together! Or maybe you've been parenting this way all along. I want your experience!
- I need accountability. Although well-behaved, inside I was an angry child-angry teen-angry adult, and it's been quite a grace-filled journey learning how to express my emotions in a healthy way. If I know there are other people standing shoulder to shoulder with me, in the good times and bad, it will help.
The Three Big Ideas (from Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids)
"Your own emotional regulation -- a fancy way of saying your ability to stay calm -- allows you to treat the people in your life, including the little people, calmly, respectfully, and responsibly. That's what produces children who are emotionally regulated, respectful, and responsible." (xxi)
Honestly, there are so many times when I just say, "maybe I should just give her a little swat," but as my wise friend Tiffany pointed out, at these times it is more about me maintaining a sense of control than doing it for her "own good." I'm definitely not perfect at this whole thing, but I'm hopeful that starting early will continue to help me regulate my own emotions for when times get really tough.
2. Fostering Connection:
"Children thrive when they feel connected and understood. Parenting effectively depends above all on your connection to your child. Period....Children need to feel deeply connected to their parents or they don't feel entirely safe, and their brains don't work well to regulate their emotions and follow parental guidance." (xxi)
Have you ever noticed that on your busy days, your kids need you way more or act out more than usual? I do! We've been packing to move, and yesterday I tried to get a lot done. It was the worst day we've had in a long time. I also had a bad head cold, which made me even more cranky. Instead of trying to power through, I should have taken a break, sat on the floor, and read books for a while. I'm certain that the crying and tantrums would have been much, much less. That's an example of connection.
3. Coaching, Not Controlling:
"What raises great kids is coaching them -- to handle their emotions, manage their behavior, and develop mastery -- rather than controlling for immediate compliance. They [parents] 'emotion-coach' so that their child develops the emotional intelligence essential to managing feelings and making wise choices. They use empathic limits rather than punishment - even just time-outs and consequences - to coach their child's development of self-discipline, rather than simply forcing their child into obedience." (xxi)
OK, this is a hard one. It feels wrong, somehow, and goes against the typical conservative parenting teachings, but I'm convinced that what she's saying here is 100% true. I had a very hard time expressing my emotions when I was younger (up until the last few years, actually, after intensive counseling) and felt like any anger or frustration I felt was something that needed to be covered up. I ended up stuffing a lot of things throughout my childhood and did not have very much of what Dr. Laura calls "emotional intelligence." If I could gift that to my children, I would be one happy mama.
Overwhelmed yet? Don't be!
"Life is simply the slow accumulation of moments, and each moment gives us the chance to change directions. Even if we change our reactions to only a few things that happen today, we'll find ourselves heading in a new direction. Before we know it, we're in a whole new landscape." (xxvii)
Even if this method of parenting seems whack to you, or you're intimidated but curious, or you've been doing it this way for a while, please stick around and join the conversation! Next in the series will be a more in depth look at regulating ourselves. Something we ALL struggle with, right?