Parenting. It comes in all shapes and sizes. For the most part, before I had kids, I thought parenting would come easy and naturally. I would enforce rules and my kids would just listen. Parenting would be easy. I didn’t think it would be something I would have to work at, it would just happen. Fast forward to the present; my oldest daughter is 2 ½ and my youngest is 6 months, and let me tell you, this parenting stuff is hard work! I have to work at it every day. I’ve always had an idea of what kind of parent I want to be, but naturally, I am flawed and sometimes situations get the best of me.
I have some hard fast rules when it comes to discipline and parenting, like no spanking, but the rest has been trial and error and working really hard at being effective. There was time in my recent past, where I was struggling with postpartum depression. Aside from the horrible feelings of inadequacy and almost dooming guilt, I had a pretty short fuse. I was a roller coaster of emotions, and I was far from the best version of myself. I found myself yelling (which I swore I would never do), followed by sobbing and feeling horribly guilty for yelling. I used time-outs, which I hated doing and never felt resolve from. I was having a horrible time dealing with my emotions, I was a sleep deprived zombie, and I was in completely foreign territory. I was struggling as a person and I was struggling as a parent. I had never felt this way. I felt out of control and I could see the impacts it had on my family. So, I went to counseling and laid everything out on the table. I cannot even tell you how impactful and helpful it is to have someone empathize with you and lift you up. “Yes, that is really hard.” “You are a good mother and your children are fine.” “It’s okay.” “You should never feel guilty, unless you are intentionally hurting someone.” Insert sigh of relief and begin healing. From there, I began to have more positive conversations with myself. Having someone tell me it is okay, lift me up and empathize with me when I am at my worst was life changing and just what I needed.
My experiences as I described above have greatly changed how I look at parenting and discipline, especially, since I am the mother of a toddler. Toddlers are notorious for being a roller coaster of emotions. At one moment, they can be happy as a clam and the next, a belligerent pile of melt-down mess. Toddlers have an extremely difficult time dealing with emotions. Having recently experienced a tough time dealing with emotions myself, I have to say, to be in a toddler’s shoes and deal with these crazy emotions day in and day out has to be really tough. I don’t want my children to feel isolated and unsafe when they have these experiences and feelings. I have been there recently. I felt like a downward spiral of doom. So, I have made it my mission to show and teach empathy in these situations. Why is it that our children can’t be grumpy or have a bad day? We adults have them all the time. When I am having a bad day, the last thing I need is for my husband to tell me to deal with it, or send me to my room (unless it is with a glass of wine, a piping hot bubble bath and the promise of an uninterrupted nap.) I need support. I need empathy. I need a hug. I need someone to acknowledge that I am having a tough time, show me kindness and tell me it is okay. My children need the same thing. At first, it might sound a bit counter-intuitive when you say it out loud. “My toddler is acting belligerent, having a massive melt-down and I’m going to hug them and tell them it’s okay?” Yes. That is exactly what I am going to do. Why? Because, I want to show and teach empathy, not isolate. I want to correct behavior calmly and show support. I want to be that safe place for my children, and foster and nurture that parent-child relationship. I want to build trust and raise children with happy hearts.
Parenting is tough. I have to work at it every day. I have to remember to keep my calm, but the more I practice, the easier it becomes. Practicing positive methods of discipline have really worked for me and my toddler. I have felt our relationship grow and the wedge I was driving between us has been removed. Her melt-downs don’t drag on anymore, but rather resolve pretty quickly. She is learning to empathize. Situations can be resolved with a nice tight hug, or with a cuddle and a calm talk about appropriate behavior. Sometimes, she just needed to cry. What is so bad about that? There are times when only a good cry can make me feel grounded again. Since I started this mission, I have watched our relationship strengthen and her trust and respect for me is at an all-time high. We are a family with happy hearts.