This post is part of my Parenting Calmly series written by guests to offer a variety of experiences and ideas. We want to bring encouragement, hope and inspiration as parents learn to let go of harmful practices and embrace helpful ones. How can you strengthen the relationship with your child in a way that brings laughter, love and ease to your family? Let’s find out together.
Please welcome writer, Shannon Loucks.
Deciding to parent from a gentle, connected place is the best decision I have made in my journey as a mother. Here are my top five fridge-post worthy reminders, to bringing it all together, day in and day out:
1) Listen more talk less.
I have to remind myself of this one over and over and over again. It’s the knee-jerk reaction to jump into problem solving- I’ve been around longer than you mode- and cobble together more words than a child can fully grasp, especially, if the child is overwhelmed by emotion in the moment. Keeping my response to one sentence at a time opened the door for me to hear more of what was going on for my child. Hand-in-hand with this is also: walking away and the 24 hour rule. If something feels desperately important to say to my child in the heat of a conflict, it will be just as important 24 hours later when we have both had time to calm down, collect ourselves and connect from a heart space.
2) See my child not the behavior.
For an example, I remember a day vividly: My son, six years old at the time, thrown down in the aisle of department show, having a total meltdown because we could not afford to buy the two items he wanted. It is loud and people are staring. My initial reaction was make this stop, people are looking, judging me, my child, this behavior. Taking a deep breath I see my child then I can react from a whole different place. There before me is my child, whom I love with all my heart, truly overwhelmed by the choice before him. From this place, I can step forward, sit beside him, maybe rub his back and empathize. The priority shifts from performing for others to connecting with my child.
And when I say respect I am referring to the you get this simply because you are a human being definition of respect. Just the same as I get respect, so does my child. It does not need to be earned, it is not behavior-based, it is a right. In our family everyone gets respect, plain and simple.
I am human and I make big messy mistakes as much as anyone else. The thing that makes this okay, in my gentle parenting, is that I take the time to apologize. And not just a flippant I am sorry. A true sitting down with my child after the fact and owning the mistake I made, the way it fell upon them and how I wish I had handled things differently. This has been the cornerstone of showing my children that I am accountable for my actions and that I value our relationship.
I hummed and hawed about putting this in the top five. Competing for this spot was trust and choice, which I think are super important. However, when you make the choice to walk a path that is different than most of your neighbors and/or your family of origin, you are going to need some serious support. Sadly, gentle parenting is not yet the norm. It’s not the expectation. So when you are starting out, especially, it is essential to find people who are also striving to parent in a gentle way. Whether you find a local group, an online forum or a few Facebook connection, reach out to those who understand your commitment to parent with patience from a gentle, loving space. That way, in the moments when it all feels overwhelming, you will have a safe space to which to turn. There is nothing more isolating than turning for support and having folks suggest a spanking, a time out or a good solid punishment. I know for me, my commitment to gentle parenting was strong and those suggestions were lost on me. But I still needed help in the moments that overwhelmed me (heck I still need this on a very regular basis). Friends to help me pull apart my issues from my child, to see all the angles, to suggest other gentle ways to support myself and my child.
Just the other day, as the boys and I drove home from a burger date I said, “I am writing this piece on gentle parenting. What would you say are the top five things to remember?” I quickly grabbed the voice memo because what they shared was brilliant.
1) Room for dislike.
When expanded upon they explained, this means that there is room for a child to not like things. Food, activities, people, all of it.
This one they said emphatically. It is essential, “that the kids get respect too.”
3) See it through.
“Hmmm..” I said, “tell me more.”
“Well when your kids have dreams or ideas you need to see it through. Even if they are wild and crazy you need to help them with it.”
4) Trial and error.
This means there needs to be room for everyone to make mistakes. And for everyone to be okay with those mistakes being made.
I am going to admit here, I darn near drove off the road when they shared this. Yes! Yes! Yes! There needs to be connection in order for gentle parenting to work.
When I line our lists up side by side, I am drawn to think their list trumps mine.
But what I think the true take away is, “ask your kids.”
Wherever you are at in your gentle parenting journey take time regularly to check in with the kids, to see what they think. They will give you the honest-to-goodness, no-holds-barred truth about what is and what is not working.
Shannon Loucks is Mom to two always unschooled boys 9 and 11. A Canadian living in California, chasing her passion for writing, photography, hooping and remembering forever to play. Read more from Shannon at www.breakingdaylight.org.