Family Kids

Parenting 101

10:12Meg Cowan

Tonight, Mr Evans decided to lay it out with G.
'No, you're not sleeping next to mum again. Nope, in your bed. Got it? No, she won't be coming to you in the night. Yes, I'm telling the truth!, Why, because I love her very much and she's getting cranky with the wakeups you've been giving her this month'.

It's one thing to say at bedtime but another to follow through with at two in the morning. But follow through he did. Calmly, firmly and with much more resolve than I knew how to find in the small hours. So when G came to me I just said 'I love you G and I'll see you in the morning. I know you're disappointed but you can do this' and then Mr Evans scooped him up and headed back to his room. Cue crying and midnight raging. Brilliant.

As mothers do, I lay awake in the night, waiting for his tears to subside. In truth, it was less than a minute but thats more than enough time to do a heavy duty recall on how you feel about your parenting skills. I love my kids to bits and want to do a good job but if I had a button that someone could push for immediate unrest, it would have a big label, right next to the word 'Parenting' that says 'DO NOT PRESS'.

The family that poses together stays together!


I used to think that I just needed to have more authority with the kids. That if I yelled, they should flippin' well jump and run scrambling to do what they've been told. That a swift clip around the bottom on the odd occasion was a reasonable way to deal with misbehaviour. It's what many of us have been taught 'parent power' is. Of course, thats not PC now so the parenting courses tell me I should use a well rehearsed 'time out' instead, which would be great if my strong willed children would ever sit there. And there are plenty of parents who manage to make this approach work. A little tune up and the kids are back in line.

Well, here's the thing, cards on the table. These early morning wakeup's promote nothing but honesty. My kids just yelled or hit me back. At which point I'd shout that they need a time out, and push them into their bedroom, authoratively of course, because I'm in charge dammit and you need to hear how furious I am with that kind of behaviour!. Then I would walk away, licking my wounds, and feeling defeated that I couldn't remember all the tools in my parenting toolbox, while my child raged and reinforced what a terrible job I was doing. We would move on after a little while, kind of skirting around the hurt feelings on both sides, covering it up with a few hugs and games and get on with the day.

Right, who touched that big button that clearly said 'DO NOT PRESS'.

Then I read this: Children who feel better, do better.
I realised its true for Mum's too. Mums that feel better, do better. And I didn't feel right about the way things were going in our house. Did I realise the kids behaviour left a fair bit to be desired, Yes. Was the way I was doing it working? No. Maybe it was about me, before it was about them. Maybe I needed to model a few more skills like removing myself before I got angry and apologising when I got it wrong. Maybe I needed to connect more with them before I corrected, then corrected some more, and corrected again. Seriously though, it would be so much easier if it was just about them!.

This last month has been a journey of rediscovery for Mr Evans and I and we have begun to draw new lines. Boundary lines around our own lives, the values our family stands for and lines around how we parent. Re-affirming our belief that parenting should be kind and firm. That children are a complex bundle of emotions and the origin of the word 'discipline' is all about teaching and learning. So its my job to teach them to manage those emotions, rather than press them down further and push them away. Will people sometimes look in and think we should be 'tougher'?. Probably. Will we care?. Probably, but we're going to try really hard not to!.

We are a long way from where we want to be but there is progress and I have to keep reminding myself. When it all comes out in the wash, when we get through these years and the teenage ones we still have to look forward to, I hope I will stand on the other side with children who say I stayed connected. That when it was hard and I didn't want to listen to another tear filled upset, or I had an upset of my own, I came back to try again.  That I didn't always get it right, but I stayed in the game with love, empathy, kindness and firmness all hand in hand.

Supplementary article for other interested (disillusioned/tired/over it) parents here.

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