What You Need to Know About Calm, Confident, Connected Parenting
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Growing up, I knew 2 things about my future:
Somehow, someway, I was going to be a mother.
I was going to parent differently than how I had been raised.
As you can imagine, that left a lot left for me to figure out!
But it was enough to point me down the right path and lead me to a degree in Education, a fascination with child development and psychology, and a yearning to learn it ALL when it came to parenting. (What’s your hobby? What do you stay up reading about at 2am? What do you get excited to see a new blog post about? – for me, it’s parenting.)
Through my research and mentorships, I’ve come to adapt hundreds of approaches to what works best for me – as every parent should.
Remember, there are as many parenting philosophies out there as there are families – we are all unique and that’s great. I don’t do everything right – my kids agree! But there are a few fundamental beliefs we abide by in our home.
1) We are all individual humans.
Our children are human beings. Like any human being, they have wants, desires, beliefs, and limitations. Their shorter stature does not somehow make them less human.
We use the phrase “just like me” to remind ourselves as parents that our kids are often acting in ways they’ve learned from us and changing those behaviors means changing our own and working WITH our kids not just demanding they ignore their home influence and “get it right” on their own. We take responsibility for helping our kids get where we’d like them to be, we don’t lay all the blame on them. (i.e. My 2 year old recently said “That pisses me off!” – part funny, part infuriating. Rather than punish him for something he has NO way of knowing is not appropriate for him to say I asked him not to say it and told him I shouldn’t say it either and we’d work on refraining from those words together.)
The last time you made a mistake at work – if your boss reamed you and made you feel stupid and small and insignificant – were you inspired to do better? Did you feel good about trying harder for that boss? What if they approached you honestly and calmly and explained what you needed to do differently? Were you a lot more eager to make a change? Impress them? You felt good – so you did good. Kids work the same way.
2) We are on the same side.
Sure, my husband and I are the coaches, we call the plays, but cooperation and teamwork make for a MUCH easier game.
If I see my children as adversaries I must control, our home dynamic is miserable. If I see myself as their teacher and coach I take their mistakes in stride and focus on solutions rather than punishments. And a SOLUTION is something we can all work towards whereas a punishment pits me against them. Go Team Bell!
3) Children are always doing the best they can at any given moment.
Yes, small humans can push every button we have and some we hadn’t discovered yet – but they do not wake up thinking “How can I get in trouble today?” “How can I upset mom?” In fact, if they were better at verbalizing their feelings I believe we’d hear “How can I stay OUT of trouble today? How can I make mom happy and proud? How can I have fun? How can I learn new things?” Sometimes lack of knowledge and life experience means that these natural desires of our children do not all align at the same time. “It sure sounds like fun to color on the wall. I’ll learn about textures and art mediums and explore my world some more.” They are missing the piece of the puzzle that says – mom and dad just painted those walls and cleaning them is a beast! They don’t have any way of knowing that Sharpie doesn’t slide right off. They don’t understand the difference between paper and wall – until we TEACH them.
Remember – they did not learn to walk or talk after you showed them 1 time – they need to be reminded many times for their brain to create all the necessary connections to make the new behavior happen. Patience – you’re making a difference every time.
Before reacting in anger – take a quick second to pause and ask “Why” – what is the BEST possible light you could shine on the situation?
Taking a beat to walk away and collect yourself and figure out how you want to approach the situation is always a safe bet.
4) Discipline: I don’t think that word means what you think it means.
Discipline means to teach– not punish.
I do NOT advocate permissive parenting – that does not respect parents OR children. They need guidance; they need boundaries; they need rules to learn how to navigate the world safely.
Discipline, teaching, does not ever need to hurt children. The brain cannot form new neural pathways when it is bathing in cortisol (stress hormone).
The learning comes from calm discussion, repetition, role play, practice, patience, and having a good example to follow. Be a model for your kids. Live the life you want them to. If you don’t want them to hit – don’t hit!
Use your voice wisely. Yelling should be so shocking that it brings everyone to a halt to look right at you. If you spend all day yelling about everything from dumped toys to spilled milk – your voice is weakened, they involuntarily tune you out – you have nothing in reserve for emergencies.
5) It’s ok to make mistakes – even more ok to apologize.
It sets a great example for how to handle it when THEY inevitably lose their cool (just like me) in the future.
6) Hug the kids, be loving and kind and gentle.
You won’t spoil them – you will show them how to treat your grandkids! There is no need to “toughen kids up” – the world has plenty of cruel and heartless in it. We want to raise our kids to stand up to the negative influences confident that compassion and love is the way to go.
This does not mean that our children will never be sad or angry at us. It does not mean they will never cry. It means that we are a safe place for them to feel those feelings and learn how to process them as they figure out the world around them.