Parenting advice can be confronting and yet we all know that as parents, we find ourselves responding to our children in ways that we would rather not. No parent goes into parenthood wishing to cause harm. Mostly, we approach it wanting to do it well, but at times this is difficult to achieve. Usually this occurs because of our own childhood hurts and how we’ve been taught (or not taught) to manage our feelings. It also happens because stress in our lives can leave us feeling depleted, stretched and stuck. These things impact on our ability to cope and our patience.
When parents approach a child’s emotional distress with “stop fussing”, “you’re being a baby” and “go to your room”, the child’s feelings are not soothed and they don’t learn to manage their feelings. Your child’s fussing behaviours may leave you irritable and angry, and you want them to stop. This is understandable, so give yourself a break for the times you know you’ve got it wrong, and know that today is a new day and you can try something new. There is a Buddhist quote that says, “Every morning we are born again. What we do today matters most.”
Here are some suggestions to make your parenting more satisfying and soothing:
- During times of upset, try to stay with your child. Connection is helpful.
- Understand that your child’s behaviours are their way of saying they need help (not because they are naughty or trying to do something to you). This knowledge helps you to get alongside your child rather than wanting to punish them.
- Know that it might be hard for you and that’s why you’ll have a desire to shut down their big feelings ... take a deep breath and trust yourself.
- Reflect your child’s feelings back to them ... “You’re feeling really cross, you can’t have a lolly”. Do this with a caring voice. This doesn’t mean you have to give in, it just means you care that it’s hard for your child not to get their own way.
- Pre-think of some activities you can do together that will help you relax if you’re starting to wind up. This could be going for a walk, taking a bath, sitting on the couch for a movie or going to the beach.
- Sometimes it’s better to walk away from jobs and have a ‘together break’ so your child can then manage to give you the space you need to do the job. Let go of ‘I have to do this now’; maybe you can attend to the job later.
- Find silly things that make you both laugh and break the vibe of the situation. This might be talking funny “Pot Pall Pe Poo Pow?” (What shall we do now?).