In parenting gently, almost as important as self-care is truly believing in my daughters. When one of them behaves in a way that causes me to feel angry or hurt or confused, it helps me to trust that they aren’t doing it to hurt me or to purposely anger me. I consciously look for signs that they are trying as I am – and when I look I find them.
Logan balls her fists and speaks through gritted teeth when she’s trying to control her temper. Ryleigh speaks very slowly and in a low voice, and she nods her head with each word, showing me that she’s really paying attention to her words – something she struggles with.
When I recognize my children’s effort it touches me and reminds me to try connecting with them, instead of resorting to punitive methods.
Now I don’t see a mischievous or disrespectful child in front of me – I see a person who is learning and growing, and trying to get along with others, just like I am.
I can think on our day and recall if there may be a reason for their behavior – did we wake up early? what did we have for breakfast? how have I been this morning?
I can respond as I want to – gently, and the focus remains on our connection, and on harmony in our household; it doesn’t become a yelling match where no one’s point gets across.
It doesn’t always work this way but lately there are more days in a week when I remember, than when I don’t. Probably because it feels so good when I do, I don’t want to forget.
When I believe in my children – even when I’m being yelled at or walked away from – I become their patient leader to believing in themselves. I know they can do it, and they do as well – they are young so they sometimes need help to get there.
When I help Ryleigh to recognize the power she holds over herself, and we get to the end of what began as a tense situation, and we’re standing there smiling and hugging and both just so…comforted and renewed, knowing our friendship is intact, having come to an understanding of one another – that’s more powerful a teaching tool than any beating, any time-out, any yelling, anything.
That’s what children want most – to have an intimate bond with the adults they love and trust. If we teach them how to achieve that, and show them we are invested as well, they will work toward it. If the way to achieve that is for everyone to respectfully handle big feelings – they will learn to do that with time, because they will want to.
We must model these actions for them.
I want to give my child the gift of power – the right kind of power, the good kind, the kind that, if I work at it, she will allow no one to take away from her. When she believes in herself and listens to herself and things turn out right, she’ll fell so good she won’t ever want to forget to do it.
She won’t need anyone in the “real world” to give her self-worth. She won’t need to wait to be threatened before she decides to do the right thing. She will believe in herself and know that she can make the best decision, for herself and for others.
I’ll believe in her now.