Friday, June 26, 2015

Peace Is A {Sometimes Hard} Choice

This post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

Since becoming a Mama, I've striven to be a peaceful parent...choosing to parent without punishment and definitely without physical discipline.

But one thing that's been really, REALLY hard for me is to choose peace in the way I talk...and well, the volume of my voice. Yep, I'm a yeller. And I really hate that about me. That's why I need to keep reminding myself of my motto: "Keep Calm and Go Zen." But it's hard. One thing I have to remind myself in order to be kind to myself is that I don't yell all the time, only when I've been pushed to my limit multiple times (I have a lot of patience, but I also have a breaking point), when my kids do something super dangerous and I need to get their attention or if the kids are fighting and hitting each other. Most of it consists of me yelling "STOP IT!!!" but other times you can hear me yelling "AAAAHHHHH!!!" out of pure frustration.

I know all the reasons not to yell and I am really open with the kids and talk to them about how I know that's something I'm working on. But it wasn't until I started reading Dr. Laura Markham's book Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings that I realized that I need to be doing more than working on stopping the "yells".

Chapter One of the book was 13 pages long and I had tears in my eyes and so many "duh!" moments within just those 13 pages. I'm not even a novice to this whole peaceful parenting approach. But it's just the way she writes and the way she presents ideas to actually BE a peaceful parent that hit home.
I was reminded (and I realized on a deeper level) just how much of a CHOICE it is to be a peaceful parent. Being super chill and not really feeling anger or frustration is not a trait we necessarily have (though I'm sure some people are--but most of use have to choose to consciously let go of those emotions). And of course, the way we were raised and taught to manage our emotions plays a major role in how we do these things now that we are parents. But in the end, I've really (finally!!) understood that I need to CHOOSE peace in the heat of the moment. And let me tell you, it is NOT easy sometimes...well most times.

Most times I want to yell and grab each child and pull them away from each other and yell some more about why it's so not cool to pinch, scratch or punch their sibling(s). But...that's not very peaceful.

So...I'd like to share with you some of the things I've learned about myself to make this choice easier and some of the very wise tips Dr. Laura shares to successfully become a more peaceful parent, more often.

1. I've become very aware of how I feel physically, mentally and emotionally during a moment when I'm being pushed above and beyond my limit(s). I feel a tightness and heat in my chest, I feel pent up energy suddenly needing to burst out and I get an overwhelming feeling of annoyance. Dr. Laura suggests in order to be a peaceful parent, we the parents, need to regulate our own emotions first. Very true. If we can't regulate our own, how can we expect to teach our kids to do it? Plus in regulating our own emotions we will learn ways to calm down and then when we are calm, we can more easily choose to deal with the situation with gentleness and peace. For me, this looks like this: kids are yelling, running around trying to hit each other or doing some other thing I've told them to stop--I feel and notice the emotions rising, so I close my eyes and take deep breaths. I know they are hitting each other, I hear them yelling and crying, but I can't go to them until I feel myself calming down. So I breathe, breathe and breathe...sometimes it feels like a few seconds, sometimes like an eternity...but I always eventually do calm down and then I find I have a much clearer head and can then proceed to help my children solve the situation in a way that will give the kids the space they need to calm down and to also result in a bonding experience and a lesson learned {Dr. Laura refers to this as"emotion-coaching" and it's what in the end will help kids learn to regulate their own emotions}. Obviously, if they were in danger I wouldn't wait it out. In times of imminent danger, I intervene immediately. If it's an outside danger, I don't get mad or frustrated anyway, so it's not a matter of needing to choose peace then. If it's a danger they are inflicting on themselves or others, I stop them immediately and hope for the best to come out of me in that situation. But 99% of the time, it IS something that can wait 10 seconds for me to take 5 deep breaths. But let me tell you...being able to allow myself and choose (there's that word again!) to take time to calm down did not come easy. Reacting with my ingrained knee-jerk tendencies was a habit I needed to break out of. But I feel so much more free now. It's still a constant choice. It's something I'm going to have to consciously choose forever I think...but it has gotten easier and I am thinking it will continue to get easier.

2. I realized and gave myself permission to see failure as a necessary step towards success. This may seem like a backward or unproductive way to think. But for me, it was a realization that no one, NO ONE, is perfect. We all make mistakes. It's how and what we learn from them that matters. So if I see my failures (the moments when I do yell or do not choose peace) as a lesson in what I can do differently next time, it helps me to not get discouraged or to feel like I won't ever be able to change. When I made that mental switch, a ton of pressure and expectations I had put on myself were released. I'm a constant work-in-progress, I'm constantly, consciously choosing to parent with deliberateness and peace. No one becomes an expert or professional overnight. You have to put in the time, practice and effort to become better, to improve. For me, it looks like this: prioritizing getting in mommy recharge battery time, practicing mindfulness during the day and night (oh the joys of waking children...), choosing joy, dancing alone or with the kids (so fun!), getting outside daily, taking my vitamins and supplements and working out. All these things help me feel good and I'm better able to be deliberate when it comes to my parenting. And I actually enjoy my kids and the daily tedious tasks more when I feel replenished.

3. I've decided I need to NOT care what others will think. Man oh man, tantrums or outbursts or public acts of disobedience are HARD! It's one thing when shit goes down in your own home. But when you're out in public you immediately feel like everyone is watching and JUDGING! And they probably are. Maybe some Mamas are saying to themselves "Poor woman." Or others, "What a terrible mother, why isn't she stopping them?" And you know what, who cares? All I want to care about is how my children see me. To me they are the only ones that I need to come clean with. I want to be a good role model for them. So if I need to just stand back and take the time to calm myself down before "doing something" about my child's public outburst, I am going to do that. It's not because I'm letting them "get away with it" or "ignoring them" it's because I know I will not deal with the situation well and in a positive, peaceful way if I jump in with knee-jerk reactions. I see parents at playgrounds, stores or events being tested and pushed to their limits. I choose not to judge. Instead I send them an invisible hug and hope they will do the same when I'm the one dealing with the toddler tantrum!

I'm delving into this book with gusto and I know I've got lots more to learn. I'll be back next week with my thoughts on Chapter Two.


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