Have you been questioning your parenting style recently? I think lockdown has resulted in a lot of navel gazing for many of us. The combination of more free time (for some – I know not all, thank you to those of you working hard through this!) and more time spent at home with our children means 1. a lot more difficult behaviour and 2. a lot more time to spend second-guessing ourselves and our choices parenting wise.
When your child pushes your buttons and you feel yourself getting stressed or angry, you should absolutely not discipline him until you are calm. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and slowly exhale. Repeat as often as necessary until you can think more clearly. Sometimes you have to give yourself a ‘time out’. That is, move away from your child temporarily, so that you can think more clearly.
I would say over 90% of the parenting dilemmas posed to me daily have one very simple answer; “you’re expecting too much of them”.
When you practice a more gentle style of parenting, criticism from others can be all too common. So, what should you do then next time somebody offers you one of these pearls of wisdom?
I have made parenting choices that I am not proud of now and I would not make again if I knew then what I know now. I’ve also slipped up, many times, ‘in the moment’ and said and done things I regret. Everyone has, but I welcome my guilt for it teaches me to be a better parent. When we know better we do better.
I have often seen well-meaning nursery workers peeling a sobbing child or screaming baby off of an equally distressed parent with reassurances of, “It will be okay, don’t worry.” The parents walk away with tear-stained cheeks, desperately trying to not look back, whilst the childcare workers speak in jolly voices trying to cajole toddlers with the promise of a sticker or story, or bounce babies whilst playing peekaboo.
Remind yourself that your child is not jealous, they are grieving, and they are hurting. They are not being deliberately malicious. Their behaviour shows they are struggling and they need your help.
Coping with behaviour ‘in the moment’ is important, however it’s only half of the discipline. Unless you look at the cause of the behaviour and work to remove or reduce it, the behaviour is going to keep recurring.
One of the toughest things about becoming a mother for the first time, is learning to cope with feeling guilty. We feel guilty if we don’t ‘love every minute’ (nobody does by the way!), we feel guilty if we lose our temper, we feel guilty when we desperately need a break away from our children, we feel guilty about parenting choices we make, or those that were made for us and we feel guilty about not doing enough self-care. We just can’t win. Physical exhaustion and sleep deprivation aside, the guilt must be one of the worst things about new motherhood. First-time mother guilt is hard, really hard. The second time around, you have the same guilt you had the first time around and so much more. The good news is though, that it is normal. You’re not alone.
With so many resources giving parents advice to stop sibling fighting, we lose sight of the positive side of these seemingly negative interactions. Parents are often so eager to stop any fighting that they don’t realise that actually, most sibling fights, provide wonderful communication education, personal growth and emotional literacy to both siblings. To aim to stop any sibling squabbles is not only naïve (because no families have siblings that don’t fight, often regularly!), but a lost learning opportunity for the children.