I had a great comment from a reader of today’s post (https://homeschoolingmiddleeast.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/a-useful-way-to-mindfully-parent-children-when-they-are-driving-you-crazy/#comments) You can read her comment if you click on this link and you stroll right to the bottom of the page. Imane said that although she recognizes that kids have a right to be “silly” and that it’s our responsibility to “deal with it” (presumably calmly), she finds this very, very challenging. She finds it hard to deal with them when she’s not in the mood (because of other stresses in life). She hopes she can “get over this” “at some point”. I started writing a response to her comment but then thought – if I totally relate to Imane, how many other parents do? I know that the more stressed I am (as a result of the most stupid things like I’ve got to get a meal prepared and they want my attention or I’ve just finished supermarket shopping, which I absolutely hate, and I’d love to sit down for 5 minutes alone, but I’ve got to get them ready for bed, the list is endless) the less I can cope with the kids annoying me, even though I know that what they are doing is normal and natural and that, most importantly, at other moments, I can laugh at it. The hardest thing for me is the voice inside my head telling me that if I’m getting annoyed and especially if I shout, instead of being a model of Zen calm, I’m a failure as a parent and that makes me feel sooo bad.
The problem Imane is suffering from plagues me so badly that I actually have a frame on my desk with quotes in it to help calm me down on a daily basis! To be honest, since I never thought I’d share them, I can’t remember where they all come from. Many of them are from Zig Ziglar’s ‘Better than Good – Creating a Life You Can’t Wait to Live’ but I think others come from at least one other book I’ve read. So I do apologise to those authors for not attributing them, but I am not claiming them for my own at least! Ziglar’s book had a big impact on me just when we were taking the very difficult decision to homeschool 6+ weeks ago. The quotes I have in my frame (I’m looking at the frame as I type this) are as follows….
“That which they see, they will reproduce”
I take this to mean that we MUST all work on being models of Zen calm so that our children might learn to be like this themselves one day. What a wonderful lifeskill to pass on, especially because it doesn’t come naturally to me. I think it’s really true: If I react to my daily stress with anger and upset or shouting, my children will learn to deal with their stress the same way. This is not a good way to live life on a daily basis, we’re not talking exceptional stress here. We’re talking about the usual annoyances that we all have to deal with. I want them to do a much better job, to cope much better than I do, so that they are even happier people than we are. But we have to be happier, better able to cope ourselves. We as parents can’t just wish this to be the case, we can’t talk to our children about the benefits of letting stress roll off them like water off a duck’s back, we have to learn to be like this ourselves – show them how it’s done!
“My number 1 leadership role in the family is that of a calming authority”
I love that and sometimes I mutter it under my breath when I start feeling upset, ‘Calming authority, calming authority’!
“I am not responsible FOR my kids, their behavior, their feelings, or any of their choices. I am responsible TO them for MY behavior, my feelings and all my choices” and I’ve added (like losing my temper). This is one of the most important things a very hands-on parent can do to make life calmer for everyone. If I can stop thinking of everything negative that the kids do as being a reflection of me, which is so egocentric anyway, then I will feel much calmer, feel under much less pressure. But it’s easy to forget this and go back to my ‘bad old ways’!
Instead of losing my temper, I can sit back and let the consequences take over. For example, if Edward is driving me crazy by slamming his door (because we’ve told him a hundred times to stop doing it because otherwise the door will break), instead of enforcing some punishment if he keeps doing it, you wait until the door inevitably breaks and then, for a while at least, he doesn’t get the joy of having a door he can close, which is very important to him with a pesky little sister! Then later on he can be part of the solution by helping you fix it, but only after a period of inconvenience when he learns to really value the door!
Nothing asks me (and all parents) to grow up like helping kids grow up. Disciplining with ruthless consistency – NOT disciplining ruthlessly, not at all! But disciplining with ruthless consistency, is asking myself to grow up because it is time-consuming and exhausting. But I can grow up! Sometimes I might say absent-mindedly, “Petra stop kicking Edward on the sofa. If you do, I’ll have to carry you off it”. When she continues it, instead of shouting at her to stop but not being bothered to go over and carry her off, I keep my cool and calmly lift her off the sofa and say again why I’m doing it even though she’s screaming and kicking in indignation!
Wherever I read this ‘consequence’ parenting tip, I read that enforcing a consequence is like keeping a promise and consequences are important promises. It’s true, enforcing consequences, with gentleness, is one of the kindest things you can do to your kids because this way they know what the limits are. They won’t spend a lot of time and effort fighting you knowing that sometimes you relent and you don’t need to relent very often to make kids fight you every other time, just in case this is one of those rare relenting times! Kids are ruthless, they are incredibly persistent! So we need to be careful when we explain that they’ll be a consequence for a behavior. We must follow through with it, so we need to be sure that we are prepared to do so when we say it. If for some reason, I knew in my heart that I was really not going to be bothered to go over and lift Petra off the sofa, then I mustn’t say that will be the consequence if she keeps kicking Edward.
And the last thing I’ve written, which is all my own, is to enjoy each day with joy in my heart, fulfilling my calling as a dedicated, loving and supportive mother and wife (in that order ;)! Being a dedicated mother, and now home educator, is my calling and there’s nothing more satisfying in life than identifying one’s calling. I feel so blessed to have done so, when I thought I never would. It was agony not to have done so. And I’m enjoying it, whatever little challenges life throws in the way. They are little. They are surmountable. Because I am fulfilling my true purpose in life, nothing will get in the way, because my decision, my boldness “…has genius, power and magic in it.” – see below.
This is for those if you who are thinking, but are still daunted by homeschooling – a bit of Goethe that I found on: http://www.theunschoolersemporium.com/unschooling-articles/ten-tips-for-new-unschooling-parents/ “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back – Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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