As mom of two little girls, Laurie and Leina, I’d like to share how my parenting approach has shifted so far, in hopes it will inspire another parent to have an open mind about different parenting methods.
Do you grow as a parent?
What I knew before I had children were the parenting methods of my parents. They all made sense to me: there was a lot of love, and a lot of structure. I thought I was going to be just fine.
Laurie was a wonderful baby — easy-going and a pleasure to be around. I can say she made parenting very easy for us at first. Then she became a toddler with a more prominent personality. She entered the age where she needed to be taught concepts like boundaries and safety. You know, the age when parents start saying “no.”
What I knew then was that if I was firm and raised my voice, she would get scared and not do the thing again, and that’s how I proceeded. It didn’t take too long before I realized that she would start shutting down sometimes. Eventually, my loud voice didn’t scare her; it would just make her uncooperative, and she wouldn’t care much about what I was trying to teach her with all my best intentions.
That was the very first time I questioned what I knew and what I thought was a tried-and-proven method of parenting. And the weird part was that it was hard for me to question it. I felt like I was betraying my own parents. As if I was telling them, “hey, I don’t like the way you raised me, so I will do it differently with my kids.”
I love my parents and I absolutely respect how they raised us. I was blessed with a balanced and happy childhood, despite much of it taking place during the war (in Beirut, Lebanon). There is no question in my mind that my parents did an outstanding job while trying to keep our family alive. But, my gut was telling me that “scaring” my child into listening was not for me. I guess times have changed, I’m in a different environment, and, wait a sec: this is not about me. It was about Laurie. If she was shutting down at 14 months, then there was not much hope for connection later.
I had to try something different.
I literally forced my mind to be open. I started reading, I took a course in gentle and positive parenting methods, and I was learning things that are common, but that I had never considered before. The new methods were a LOT of work. I have to talk and “resonate” with my toddler? What does she know?
Well, turns out she knows a lot more than I thought.
The gentle method was — now I think, “duh!” — more effective, and it created connection, trust, and confidence. When I say “gentle,” it basically means treating my child as a human; listening to her without judgement, respecting and validating her feelings, giving her a voice, and considering her opinions. Things that are at the foundation of good relationships among adults as well.
I became an advocate for gentle parenting since then, and more so when Leina was born with her completely different personality. It’s not easy!
I thought I was patient, but I had to practice being WAY more patient. (And I still have ways to go.)
I learned that each time I lose it and raise my voice again, it’s about ME, never about my girls.
I am constantly reading to remind myself to be patient, gentle, and understanding.
I keep a mood log to predict my angry/irritated days (surprise! they are directly linked to my cycle and stress).
I put little reminders all around the house.
I started yoga and meditation to manage my irritability.
I even did a RTT hypnotherapy session that helped me tremendously.
The key, I think, is not to follow anything so religiously. I still choose to do many things the way our parents have taught us, and there are things that other “gentle parents” do that I don’t think fit our lifestyle or values. But everything I choose is respectful to my children.
(Save my printable intentional parenting curated quotes here.)
I know I won’t be perfect — nobody is — but I also know I’m a better parent now, because I chose to have an open mind and to keep growing by listening to my heart and to my child. I learned that parenting your child was not about a set of rules that need to be followed; it’s about creating connection with them, every single day. The real, put-your-phone-out-of-sight, kneel-down, take-a-deep-breath, love-ferociously kind of connection. It’s hard, and so wonderful, and it’s different for every child (even siblings).
I can’t wait to see what the next years will be like.
What did you learn in your parenting journey so far?
Mindset – Carol Dweck, Ph. D.
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids – Dr. Laura Markham
The Danish Way of Parenting – Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl