I feel I've come a long way in my parenting journey over the last eight years. I've developed more patience than I ever knew possible for myself, become more tolerant, open-minded, empathetic, and (sigh) better able to handle sleep deprivation. I've learned new techniques for calmly dealing with frustration, and for disciplining without punishment/reward/bribery (something prior to parenting I hadn't realized was even possible). But, though I've improved in these areas, incorporated these ideas into my parenting toolbox, that doesn't mean I've mastered them! And, still, my children change, new challenges present themselves, I find my limits being tested and I'm continually having to learn new, different techniques in order to change along with my kids. No one ever said parenting was boring, right? Something I've been working on recently, is learning how to calmly observe situations (as opposed to immediately judging what's going on and thus creating an emotion - usually a more forceful one like anger or irritation or resentment), as a way of being more present and better able to deal with things as they come up.
When I am in a situation where I feel like my children are out of control, going wild, not listening… and I feel myself getting anxious, frustrated, or on the edge of outbursting myself, I try to stop for a moment. I take myself to a protected, quiet (or as quiet as you can get with children) spot. I breathe. I think about how I am feeling and recognize how I am (re)acting towards my children. I try to do this without judging myself - just acknowledging and recognizing. I breathe some more. I try to envision what I'd LIKE my children to be doing… AND (perhaps more importantly) how I would LIKE to respond to my children. I breathe. I try to ignore the outbursts or craziness for a little bit longer. Next, I think about what they are doing at the moment. I try to switch my way of thinking about what's going on with them from judgment to observation (something like moving from: "I can't BELIEVE the how they've wrecked the house! I JUST straightened it up! They're out of control!!" to "There are a lot of things on the floor. My kids are full of energy."). I find that when I can move from forming opinions about what's going on to just making general observations, I feel my sense of stress about the situation greatly reduce. I go from feeling like I "NEED TO FIX" this situation to feeling like I'd just like to continue on with the day. When I'm no longer seeing what's going on as a problem and instead just being present with the situation, bringing awareness to life as it IS, then I'm no longer needing to fix it, so I can look at it more optimistically, calmly, and with a broader view.
(Photo Credit: NaturalLifeMom.com)
Take the example of the "house being wrecked immediately after cleaning it: if I look at it as the kids going bonkers, disrespecting their space, and creating more work for me, I may find myself wanting to hurry to clean up, which stresses me out, I may dictate that the kids follow suit, but then feel angry, frustrated, or put out when they don't immediately heed my directive, or irritated that they just keep getting louder - echoing my own irritated energy. Nothing has been resolved, nothing learned, and stress continues on. Usually multiplied. If instead, I look at the same situation (after breathing and calming and reframing) as: kids with lots of energy, and stuff on the floor, I can more easily start picking just up the stuff (because it's just stuff on the floor that needs picked up), without demanding that the kids help (because I've envisioned them seeing me clean up and want to join in to help, since picking up stuff is part of life, and kids like to be part of real life), and I don't feel angry or frustrated because there's no blame, no judgment, no expectation. In fact, maybe I put on music while I clean up - because I like cleaning to music. Maybe I make a game out of it because who doesn't like trying to "make a basket" with stuff on the floor? Without pressure or force or guilt or blame or anger directing my actions, I often find myself more calm, more creative, more present. And, when I am more calm, my kids feel my calmness and direction, and they naturally start calming down, mirroring, echoing. Things get cleaned up, people are calm, and the day moves on. I haven't yet perfected this, but I find that it's working, so I continue to work in this direction in the hopes that we all will experience more peace, calm, awareness, and presence in our lives!
(Photo Credit: PresenceParenting.com <-- for fabulously non-judgmental tips on how to acheive more presence, peace, and harmony in your life with children, please visit my friend Amy's blog. She also wrote this lovely online guide: Nurturing Presence)
Here's to more calm, more breathing, and less judgment in your own life. Peace.