I was talking to a friend recently and she happened to mention that she felt those that followed Attachment or Positive parenting principles seemed to give off this vibe that they think they are perfect. I hate labels but this statement stayed in my head and I kept thinking about it.
I guess for a mum having a bad day that seeing someone else dealing with something in a positive way could easily trigger something inside that makes them feel imperfect. We’ve all been there, we are having one of those days and then you see that mum, remaining calm with her child when we feel we would surely explode in the same scenario! For me it comes back to my own personal reflection if ‘someone is making me feel inferior’ aka Quit pointing your Avocado at me – but when we allow ourselves the time to reflect it is often actually our own feelings of guilt that lead us to feel inferior.
We all know that we could have dealt with certain situations in a better way, we know that we are sometimes tired, stressed, running late and for most of us in these situations if we add a couple of children into the mix, asking relentless questions, arguing about who was the winner, wanting to listen to the same song over and over again in the car, one slightly incorrect manoeuvre from them (or the same song for the 16th time!) can tip us over into exploding volcano mode.
Over the past couple of years I have done a lot of reflection and personal work, learning about infant development and developmental psychology as a personal interest but also as part of my studying to become a Calm Family Consultant. I like to think of myself as a conscious or positive parent for the most part, but perfect I am certainly not.
Just the other day I was very glad not to be known in my ToddlerCalm teacher capacity. At the park, with 3 children under the age of 6 and none of them listening to me. They argued, annoyed each other and pushed in front of each other on the slide each of them needing to be 1st. The way my youngest chose to deal with this was by screaming at the top of his voice. I tried to help them negotiate, remaining as patient as I could but with each situation could feel a little bit more of myself bubbling inside. Then my youngest decided he was not taking it in turns with the other children at the park and being a complete steering wheel hog on the tractor climbing frame – again I tried to negotiate the situation calmly. The other parents that I already felt had been watching all of these *very loud* situations, were taking sly looks at me, judging me (or so I felt!). I was tired after a bad nights sleep, I was not in the mood to play, engage and diffuse any longer. I had taken them out of the house for fresh air, surely they could play together for just 20 minutes without me having to help them negotiate situations!!! Then the next incident pushed me over the edge. I acted like a complete child and had a tantrum, announcing ‘right we are going home, come on’ – resulting 3 x crying children which just increased my adrenalin and made me certain I was following through with my announcement. This is not conscious or positive parenting nor is it any-where near what I teach in my classes at ToddlerCalm. It also resulted in the parents that I felt were judging me staring even more at the mad lady that was stampeding out of the park with 3 crying children.
I understand what is happening to me when I lose my temper. I know my brain is not communicating well in that moment and I can’t be rational, I am reacting to my fears and thoughts of what others are thinking rather than problem-solving and understanding that my youngest child is 3 and the behaviour he displays is perfectly normal for a 3 year old. I am certainly not modelling the behaviour I want to model to my children. I always feel upset with myself if I haven’t handled things well (I teach a whole lot of tools and skills to other parents on how to handle situations like this!) and when everything has calmed down and I have taken some time to breathe and think (before doing so on this occasion I also shouted ‘I can’t listen to this song AGAIN’ and switched the CD off! Continuing into a rant about why we had left the park!)
A few moments had passed I collected my thoughts and apologised to the children for having a tantrum. I also give my children permission to tell me to stop being a moany mummy and I often re-enact situations in a playful way with props when we are at home to try and cause a bit of light-hearted relief! We literally react and say things in the heat of the moment that we don’t mean or even consider properly. Words said when adrenaline is running high and cortisol has flooded our body are not going to be well thought out.
So I don’t think parents that practise positive or conscious parenting do think they are perfect, and nor do they model perfect. Lets face it, we are setting our children up to some largely unachievable standards if we were to model perfect all of the time. But a positive or conscious parent does know how to apologise, talk about feelings and emotions and reflect on the situation to try to prevent situations perhaps happening again.
I also know that for me to be the person and mum that I want to be, the positive and conscious parent that keeps my emotions in check, that I need to have had a good nights sleep. I need to have had a little bit of time to myself. I need to have been looked after by someone else for a little while occasionally. I need an understanding hug from my partner. I need to make my yoga class a priority (meaning must find a yoga class!). I need to go for that glass of wine with my friend that listens and doesn’t judge or try to fix! I need to be able to make the confession that I didn’t do very well today to my online forum of conscious or positive parents. Indulgent some may say, but to have a group of mums that have got your back, some will send a virtual hug, some will make some suggestions, some will confess they had a bad day too – but I seriously don’t know what I’d do without them or all of the above.
Thankfully days like the one above happen to me less these days but when they do I know it is time to invest time in me, as above.
This is something I talk about passionately at my ToddlerCalm Course and Workshop. To all parents, particularly the main care-giver, we need to be kind to ourselves, surround ourselves with support, our own matrix of other mums that are there for you, to listen, empathise and hug. I can guarantee you will get to return the favour some time!
Positive Parenting is not Perfect Parenting, nor does it raise a perfectly behaved child. For me it is having an understanding and realistic expectation of your child’s capabilities throughout the ages and stages of their life and also understanding how your brain works when you are dealing with conflict or challenges. It is reflecting and adapting. It is acknowledging imperfection, talking about emotions, validating feelings, knowing how to apologise and trying very hard to be as unconditional as is humanly possible.
I love the articles below for ideas on how to support your child during a tantrum:-
and for understanding what is happening to our brain when we face challenging behaviour/situations:-
What happens to the brain when we ‘lose it’
Both give an insight into a little of what you learn at my ToddlerCalm classes.