Mother (and Father) hood is a choice you make everyday to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing, even when you’re not sure what the right thing is.. and to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong.- Donna Bell
This month, I have been reading Susan Stiffelman’s Parenting Without Power Struggles. In her book, Susan talks a lot about the attachment needs of children at different stages and provides practical ways to meet those needs. She talks about the importance of connection with your child in terms of their healthy development, socialization and safe navigation through the challenges of adolescence. The book offers a lot of insight and practical advice, and is definitely worth a read. Come back soon for another Conscious Book Review.
When not reading or writing, I’ve been working on furthering my goal to be a more conscious parent, although the past few days have seen a bit of a return to my “pre-conscious” behavior, serving as a reminder of the importance of this journey. In my interactions with my daughter this month, I’ve been working on using the following mantras and conscious parenting techniques: “Connection or Rejection,” “Flowing with the Current,” and “Apologize and Forgive.”
Connection or Rejection
Inspired by Stiffelman’s book and the realization that my daughter is much happier and cooperative when we are connected, I’ve started to try to bring the awareness, or consideration, of connection into all of our interactions. Typically utilized in moments of frustration, I ask myself, “Connection or Rejection?” short for “Is she feeling rejected by my words and behaviors or are we still connected?”If, in the middle of a parenting moment, I ask that question and find the answer is “Rejection,” I try to pause and ask myself if there is a way I can address the situation through connection. An example of how this unfolds is typically when I find myself trying to command or demand that she does something and instead change to a more conscious, kind explanation of why I need something to be done. I find when I switch to connection, she is usually, if not always, more willing to cooperate.
Flowing with the Current
Another thing I’ve noticed as I interact with my children on a daily basis is that so much of our enjoyment of the situation depends on whether I am flowing in the direction they want to go or fighting their resistance to go in another direction. So much of our daily interactions with our children have to do with accomplishing certain tasks – getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, getting out the door, cleaning up, eating meals, etc., and when our goals are the same, these things flow easily. However, when our goals are different – as they usually are in my household where my children’s most common goal is to play, start playing or keep playing – these interactions can lead to frustration and conflict.
This month, I’ve been trying to notice and appreciate those times when I am able to relax and flow with them (typically when we’re playing outside with no agenda or other place to be) and enjoy those moments. In times when I notice that I am struggling against the current of their collective desire to continue playing when we have something else to do or somewhere else to be, I try to think of a way to “Flow with the Current” and redirect them to where I need them to be through play. When I join them in their play and expand upon it to include whatever I need them to do, we typically experience a more consensual flow in that direction and everyone is all the more happy for it.
Apologize and Forgive
My third parenting practice for this month was something else entirely until today, when I stormed through the morning completely conscious (now – thanks to my consciousness habits) of my self-defeating behaviors but seemingly unable, or unwilling, to stop them until it was too late and the morning was lost in a a whirlwind of tears, frustrations and angry words. It was then that I remembered the healing power of a genuine apology.
Before dropping my daughter off at preschool, her little heart filled with sadness and the pain of a morning gone wrong, I stopped and apologized. I told her how sorry I was that I had gotten frustrated and acted on my feelings instead of choosing to be kind. I reminded her of how much I loved her and allowed her to talk about her feelings before setting her on her way for the day.
After she left, it took some time, but I eventually remembered the equally powerful salve of forgiveness, in this instance, for myself. As Leo Babauta of Zen Habits writes in The Miracle of Self-Compassion, forgiving yourself is an important practice to keep the negative tentacles of regret from pulling you back into the past and keeping you from moving forward and enjoying the present. So as parents, when we all inevitably make mistakes with our children and do or say things we regret, don’t forget the importance of the practice of “apologize and forgive.” For more on moving past mistakes and reconnecting with your children, read HERE.
I hope some of these parenting inspirations resonates with you this month. If you have any of your own conscious parenting tactics or resources to share, please comment below!
Thanks for Reading!