Parenting peacefully does not come easily to many people. Despite a common misconception that being gentle with our children and avoiding the use of punishments is considered lazy parenting, peaceful, gentle and respectful parenting is anything but. Guiding children without the use of fear or threats takes, at times, superhuman effort and can push even the most patient of parents to lose their cool. Our children often take a little more time to use manners, manage emotions and show an understanding of socially acceptable behaviors such as sharing when these issues are addressed respectfully rather than punitively.
Interestingly, for respectful parenting to work, it is vital that parents are able to ride these (often enduring) waves while keeping a cool and unruffled exterior. That, for me, is the hard part. Battling day in, day out with strong-willed children can make it easy to want to release one's own pent-up frustrations and take it out on those nearest and dearest to us when pushed to the brink.
Ensuring I can remain calm, confident and collected in heated parenting moments has taken a great deal of mindfulness, practice and reflection. I have frequently questioned my approach and have ridden a roller coaster through some of the hardest years of my life. But ultimately, I can attest to the fact that my children respond far better and thrive the most when I am consistently able to steady myself and keep a peaceful, yet firm, exterior when they push me to my limits.
The days I am feeling sluggish, stressed or overwhelmed by accumulating housework are usually the days my tolerance levels are lowest. Coincidently (or not), these days also usually happen to be the days my children seem especially clingy, whiney, demanding and testing! When I have my own agenda for the day, things I am trying to achieve around the house, this is when I find myself less tolerant and less able to stay calm and accepting of difficult behaviors.
I developed the following practices to help me be more mindful, less stressed and better able to remain the peaceful parent I strive to be.
1. Mentally prepare for the day ahead
I do this by reading inspiring blog posts or a chapter of a great parenting book. I am usually woken early in the morning by my children, so I normally do this the night before, resolving to put into practice a new technique or idea I have read the next day. Often just reading a success story or a profound Janet Lansbury post is enough to help me stay confident in my parenting throughout the day.
In the morning I remind myself how important it is that I stay on top of my emotions and parent calmly throughout the day. Being conscious of my actions rather than just drifting mindlessly through the day really helps me stay focused on the role I have taken on. Like an actor in a play, I guess.
Much of this mental preparation is centered around shifting my perspectives of the behaviors. Educating myself about the reasons behind challenging behaviors such as limit testing and tantrums really helps me to deal with them with more empathy when they occur.
2. Prepare meals on the weekend
Freeing up time during the day so I am not stressed about trying to get dinner made by a deadline with children either clinging to me or trashing something elsewhere in the house is invaluable. I now try to prepare the week's meals on Sundays while my husband is home to help with the children. This way, the weight of this daily chore is lifted and instead I can use the week days to invite the girls into the kitchen to help, inspiring in them a love of food and cooking as we bake and create healthy goodies together.
3. Make lunches and snacks at breakfast
When my children are happily occupied eating their toast, I often make lunch for my husband to take to work. It occurred to me one day that it would be only a little extra effort to do the same for my children. So I bought them both lunch boxes with separate compartments for snacks, sandwiches etc. and now I fill their boxes ready to pull out when hunger strikes.
So often I have been caught having nothing prepared and having to scramble something together while my children bite chunks out of the cheese, dip their fingers in the butter or cry because I am not doing it the right way. My stress levels inevitably increase and I sometimes have a hard time staying calm in such moments. Having everything pre-made eliminates this occurrence and also means the kitchen only needs clearing once, after breakfast, because I am not continually preparing food and dirtying dishes.
4. Use care giving moments to connect
The realization that my babies will all too soon be old enough to take care of themselves and no longer need me to look after them hit me like a ton of bricks recently. I already knew that caregiving tasks were precious bonding occasions, but when I truly cherish each one, not only do my children feel more connected and better able to break away from me for extended play periods, I get my own feelings of love, joy and a sense of calm come over me when I give myself fully to my children for periods throughout the day. This further steadies my resolve to parent my children with care.
5. Reflect on the day
This is probably the most effective practice I use for becoming a more mindful, peaceful parent. There is rarely a day that goes by where I don't discuss with my husband a situation involving the children which occurred during the course of the day. I recount the events leading up to the situation blow by blow, the dialogue used and the ultimate outcome. Through this reflection I can think, without the pressure of the moment, and decide whether I could improve upon or change my involvement for future occurrences or whether it seemed to be quite successful as it was.
My blog writing further cements this reflection for me, as I get the sense that by putting things down on paper, I am owning my actions and becoming more accountable. I am also given so many opportunities to answer questions from readers, which contributes to my reflective practices, making me think about scenarios that could come up for us as a family and how I would like to deal with them. It takes out some of the element of surprise, ensuring I am not having to always think on my feet with my own children.
These are just a few of the things I have found have helped me remain the peaceful parent I am determined to be. I'm interested to hear what you do to stay unruffled when your children become challenging throughout the day.
You may also enjoy reading:
Tantrums and Meltdowns - My Secrets For Staying calm When The Kids Aren't by Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare)
9 Best Ways to Stay (Mostly) Unruffled With Toddlers by Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare)
Self Soothing (It's Not Just For Babies) by Christina Kessler (Respectful Caregiving)