When I was pregnant with my first child, the only thing on my mind was having a healthy pregnancy and trying to minimize the thoughts of giving birth because I was deathly afraid. Who knew that giving birth would be the easiest part of being a parent. I was shocked at how calm I was through my daughter’s entire infancy stage, I was like “I can totally do this”. Until, I slowly felt the anger creeping up on me when she turned 2 and was giving me trouble napping. I looked forward to naps like it was a girl’s day at the spa and if I didn’t get that chance to unwind I would actually cry.
Once my son was born, things changed dramatically. I wasn’t used to my daughter acting out and having tantrums when her new sibling came along and as my son got older his tantrums were something out of a horror movie. They started fighting over everything and I was working from home and just couldn’t handle it. I felt the anger in my chest and just exploded with anger and tears regularly. My husband and I were miserable. The weekends that we used to live for we dreaded and we avoided going anywhere to minimize tantrums in public. I decided it was time to seek help.
I searched the web anytime I had a chance. I heard so much about Parenting without yelling and I thought, wow I really need this. The more I searched the more I realized no one was giving up this information for free. I signed up for webinars that would give you enough information to peak your interest and then boom, “just hand over $200 a month and you will be on your way to happiness”. Believe me I contemplated it, but would it help was the question. My husband just thought my kids needed more discipline so he was not going to let me spend that kind of money on a parenting coach.
After months of searching, I came across a few books that changed my outlook on parenting. It wasn’t about getting your kids to behave, it was about really tuning in to yourself and your kids. That is where my journey began.
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Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. How profound! This one act can change your relationship with your child, husband or anyone you come into contact with.
I had a phone interview with a parenting coach when I was at my worst. I was crying every day, my daughter was coming home from school angry and saying I was mean. This was not how I pictured my life as a parent. This phone call opened my eyes. I told my story and all the coach did was listen and empathize. She recognized how hard it was for me and made me feel like I wasn’t crazy for feeling this way. She also didn’t try to make me feel better, I just needed to cry, which I did by the way to a total stranger. Even though I couldn’t afford the $2000 coaching she offered, I got off the phone feeling heard and my feelings validated. It was all I needed to get through a tough time.
I started to see my daughter’s point of view without her specifically telling me. She came home from school and I was working. Now I am literally stuck to a computer for 5 hours answering phones and scheduling appointments. My metrics are tracked and I felt I needed to justify my existence and prove I was a good worker or I would be let go.
She hated that I couldn’t spend time with her. I tried telling her I had to work if we wanted things and wanted to go on vacations. That didn’t faze her she just wanted time with me. Hence her ‘bad’ attitude every day after school. Kids don’t want explanations, they want to be heard.
I sat her down and told her how it must really stink that I have to work every day. “I’m so close, yet I can’t spend any time with you”. She just nodded her head and started to cry and said “it’s not fair, you have time with little brother all day and not me”. Ah ha! There it is! All this time asking her “what’s wrong” and all I got was a rude “nothing”. All it took was me understanding where she is coming from and connecting with her feelings to get her to open up and feel safe to let me in.
So now what! I quit my job and we live happily ever after? I wish!
Seeing the Light
Now I’m not going to preach to you that I’m calm, never yell and my children and I skip through the meadow together whenever we are together. That is definitely not happening although I do dream about it.
What I do know is that kids want to behave. They don’t want to be rude or name call or even hit. But their brains aren’t fully developed to know how to calm themselves down or control impulses. Heck some adults cannot even do that. Once I learned this I feel like my outlook on parenting changed. I realized that I am the one that has to guide my child through life with understanding and love. Life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns for us or our child. If someone told me to get over it or stop crying because I was upset I would be angry too.
I’m not going to promise some life changing epiphany, but simply understanding that when your child acts out or always seems angry, there is usually some underlying problem that they cannot express verbally.
I wish I could go back to every tantrum my daughter threw and help her work through it instead of getting frustrated and telling her to stop crying, or sending her to her room, but the reality is I can’t. We learn as we go and pray we are doing it right or we seek help.
So first we have to forgive ourselves for not knowing that these little ones as cute as they are will be stirring up some ugly emotions. Most of them we model from the way our parents reacted to us. So right there we know that we are modeling the future behaviors of our children. We first must forgive ourselves and decide to make a change.