Kids! They can bring out the best in us and the worst! The best of course, are times when we have fun with our kids, we successfully inspire, guide and form our kids, we feel connected and in love and you think “how could I have ever lived without these muffins!?”
Then there are the not-so-rosy moments when we do and act in ways that don’t ultimately benefit our kids or ourselves. For me, as with many moms, these moments creep up on me when my kids have done something that warrants disciplining.
I believe that when kids misbehave they are in essence, trying to tell us something. Something is off
balance, off kilter. Whether it is hunger, exhaustion, overstimulation or under stimulation, etc., our kids are talking to us with their behavior at all times. The question is, are we really listening?
Most of the time what happens, is that we get triggered by their behavior. We end up reacting to and responding to the behavior (and dishing out the punishments), not based the actual problem at hand. Let me give you an example. My little one has always been his own man when it comes to eating. Really hard nut to crack (or bribe) when it comes to getting him to eat his dinner. And I’m a good cook (if I do say so myself)! My husband used to go ballistic – just lost it when Christopher picked at his food and refused to open his mouth to eat, often ending up sending him out of the kitchen while we finished dinner. This approach always felt horrible to us and NEVER managed to get him to eat his food. So what did we do?
I decided to step past the problem and really get curious about how this little boy nourished himself. Something good is happening cause he isn’t malnourished! So, I noticed that at breakfast and lunch he was a totally different eater, and I began realizing that he may not need a big meal at the end of the day to feel satisfied. My husband and I talked about this and agreed that we would let it go at dinner. We told him that during dinner, he will be getting nothing different and he has the choice whether he wants to eat what is placed in front of him, or not. And that is exactly what he does – makes that choice for himself everyday. Funny enough, he is a much more enthusiastic dinner eater and our evenings are oh so much more enjoyable!
So, here are is a 3-step process that can help to bring a bit of consciousness into your disciplining approach:
1. Stop and breath. When you feel yourself about to loose it over something your kids are doing, notice this place, stop yourself and take a deep breath. Find something in the room, or focus on what you are busy with in order to bring you back to the present moment. Take another deep breath and get out of your head.
2. See the child’s intention or source of the behavior. How many times have we disciplined our kids harshly for accidentally doing something. Did the child mean to spill his milk, did she mean to pull her brother down mid-trip? From the place of calm you created for yourself in the first step, locate the source of the problem underneath the behavior.
3. Trust your intuition. When we react stressfully to our children’s behavior, we often dish out emotionally laden, and inappropriate punishment. Our emotions often cloud our ability to listen to our intuition – to choose the “right” course of action. So you now recognize the source of the behavior, it is now your job to trust your mamma instinct and create a parental response that fits the “crime”.
As we grow in our ability to parent from an awake state, we begin to see that parenting isn’t so hard after all! Learning a few simple and practical perspectives and steps frees us from our obsessive, emotional responses to the world around us. This is parenting with authenticity! Your kids will LOVE it!