Thursday, February 2, 2012

Empowered Parenting

Things have been tough. I know the twos are supposed to be terrible and the threes are supposed to be troublesome, but it's all just really tough. Whining and fit throwing and time out taking are at an all-time high, while listening and cooperating are at an all time low.

After an incident involving a corn dog, a cheese burger, a public melt-down and 8 time outs...I got an email from Abiding Hope offering an "Empowered Parents" class, and I didn't hesitate for a second.

Last night was the first session. It was so incredibly eye opening, I almost cried like 3 times. I realize that there is only so much anyone can help you with before you have to just figure it out yourself, but I really needed some of the wake up calls.

We started by discussing in groups how the following items relate to parenting:

Kids are sponges, they soak up everything and then carry it all around with them waiting for the perfect time to repeat your actions and words. And you have to clean up after them...a lot.

We all make mistakes, parents and kids. Parents take it upon themselves to try and erase not only their mistakes but their kids' mistakes too.

As parents, we have to be flexible while maintaining structure. We also have to be able to stretch and not break.

No matter how much we try, we can't keep our kids from growing up. But we can focus on the small moments.

Kids are freaking expensive, and boy does it take some luck to not mess them up.

After talking about these objects we took time to reflect on how we were raised and what about that we would like to pass on to our kids. My dad was big on choices, make the choices you want but live with the consequences -- he was also the only father that said "I love you" apparently. I want to pass both of those things on. He also let me form my own opinions and seek my own answers. I got a lot of questions answered with more questions. I want Aiden to have that yearning for knowledge and insatiable curiosity.

Then we looked at parent styles. As the parent of a toddler, I am constantly moving between "The Chum" who gives in, wants a good relationship, but is also emotionally manipulated and has a whinny kid -- and "The Controller" who is in charge, micro managing, over organizing and gets a rebellious kid. It's hard to step outside these styles with a 3 year old, they require a maximum amount of involvement, but it's important to take from the relationship based role (the chum) and the rules based role (the controller) in order to maximize cooperation which is something I really need to work on.

Another big thing I need to work on is showing my partner respect. As a parent, you can't expect your kids to  respect you if they don't see you receiving respect. I have always tried to step in and help Steve with Aiden and get them to do things "the easy way." And now I feel really bad, all that that tells Aiden is that his dad doesn't know how to do it. This is a big priority for me from now on, to back off and let them make a mess or do things the hard way together.

Along with respect comes the not-so-simple task of being on the same page. When we can't be ahead of the game and run into those "But Mom said I could" situations we need to discuss why one parent said yes and why one said no, and decide together who is right. Then, the parent who has to eat their words has to tell the child - this reinforces trust and respect to that parent. If Mom says yes, and Dad says no, and Dad is right but Mom doesn't have to apologize then it's almost like, "Well Mom just doesn't know what she's saying..."

I am also working really hard now to "speak in the positive" - if you say "Don't look down..." your kid's gonna look down, or throw a toy, or hit someone, etc. So from now on it's, "Please look up," "Please use the toy correctly," "Please play nicely with your friends."

One of the biggest eye openers was being told, "AS OF TODAY YOU WILL NO LONGER....walk away." A staple of all parenting survival has always been, walk away from tantrums. But, God does not leave nor forsake us. From now on, Aiden can take his tantrums to another room but never will I walk away and break his trust or treat him as a lost cause. Though I am going to need some good ear plugs.

We discussed irrational fears, The Chum fears temper tantrums and The Controller fears a loss of control. It's important to not let our children's emotions become our emotions and to rely on our partners to balance our fears. I get overwhelmed when Aiden cries and cries - Steve handles it very well. Steve loses patience with Aiden easily - I am good at giving second chances to Aiden. So from now on, so what if Aiden gets upset? Better than having him be the boss of the house as a teenager...which is where we are headed if we don't change.

A few months ago, Aiden had a melt down in a restaurant and an older man told him, "JUST SHUT UP." I nearly killed the man. I have never felt so protective of my child, who at the time I was trying not to kill out of frustration. But looking back now, because of that experience, I know two things:

1. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard fight. I don't judge other parents. I understand. 

2. There are no bad days. Only bad moments. It will end.

This weeks homework is writing 5 house rules in the positive. Aiden gets to help and as the teacher told us last night, just work on just hanging on.

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