I spend a lot of time writing and talking about my opinions on children’s behavior, my theories of Connective Parenting, validation, acceptance—all the principles I believe in to encourage parents to let go of the old traditional methods of parenting we have used for eons. I want us to change our mindsets from a culture of punishment to one of compassion.
A culture of compassion does not at all mean being passive and permissive. Firmness, limits, rules, and making sure the adult’s needs are met as well as the child’s are all attributes of compassionate parenting. Compassion simply means understanding the child’s point of view, the roots of their behavior and being willing to hear what you and the rest of the world must sound like from your child’s point of view.
But today instead of my opinion, I want to share an email I had from a connective parent that I think sums it up.
I am the proud mom of a 14 year old girl, a 6 year old boy, a 4 year old girl, and a 3 year old boy. I spent the majority of my teenager’s childhood as a working single parent, but I was blessed to later find my soulmate, who is the dad of my youngest 3 children, and because of him I am now a very happy stay home mom. My teen was a very easy child to parent, and I believe I was blessed with the “easy one” when I needed it most. My 6 year old, however, turned my world upside down, and from the very beginning fit Mary Kurcinka’s definition of a “spirited child”. I shed more tears over him in the first 3 years of his life than I did in total over my older daughter. I could not use the “traditional” parenting techniques on him because he was (and is) very smart, curious, tenacious, persistent, and emotional. Your books saved our relationship. I now have the most beautiful connection with him, and I am beyond thankful for all the lessons I learned about myself, relationships, and parenting all because of him. I’ve never had the same struggles with my younger 2 children because they both have milder temperaments, plus I had changed my parenting approach thanks to their older brother.
My kids know I am on their side. I allow my children to have their feelings, and then help them handle those feelings. My main focus is teaching my kids how to love themselves and be aware other people’s feelings. I encourage my kids to make their own decisions and not make choices for the sake of living up to other people’s expectations. I always look at problems or issues from their point of view, and guide them along the path to finding a solution. I agree with your philosophy about punishments and threats – they only foster anger and resentment in children, end up pushing them farther away from the parent, and do not teach anything valuable. I wish that my parents had used your approach with me, and that more people today would realize how dangerous the “traditional parenting” methods are on the self-esteem and mental health of our children.
I do try to take a little time for myself each day, because I know that only then am I in a good place to be a good mom to my kids. I do try to involve my kids though in whatever I might be doing, from preparing dinner to folding laundry, to just sitting outside in the sun. At the same time, I make sure they have plenty of time to “goof off” and just be kids. Don’t get me wrong – we have “those days” when everyone is in a bad place and it’s one crisis after another after another. But, I do my best to not take things too personally, and focus on the fact that “this too shall pass” and my kids are not out to get me!!
A few weeks ago, the secretary at my younger children’s school said to me that my kids are happy all the time. That melted my heart. Yet perhaps the best way to sum up where I am right now in my parenting journey came from the words of my teenager just a few days ago. We were in the car together, and I was giving her some advice on the extra-curricular activities she has in mind for the next school year. She asked me, “Mom, have you ever considered being a motivational speaker?” I could not have felt happier at that moment.
I know that so many of you are struggling day to day trying to do the best you can and coming up short (in your eyes) every night as you drop exhausted into bed, praying for a better day tomorrow. And I imagine it sounds a bit patronizing for me to say to you that it can be so much easier, your lives can be different, your relationship with your kids rewarding. I wanted you to hear it from someone else. I get a lot of emails saying that lives have been changed but this one spelled it out in a way I thought might be useful.
I had my button pusher, and she taught me how to let go. I hung onto her for a long time and then finally opened my hands and let her go. When I did she started to fly and I watched in awe. I learned I didn’t have to control her, fix her, change her. She was fine. It was me who needed the changing.
Remember our children are not ours to do with what we will. They are their own. And as Kahlil Gibran says so eloquently,
You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.