(Title from F&P 24).
I read an article today talking about some of the harder aspects of parenting. Among them the one I find hardest is keeping my patience. I do try to parent with integrity, reason, patience and love. Some phases are easier than others and everyone has their boiling point.
I have a toddler. I have a teething toddler. I have a toddler who's teething and sick. I am Jack's slow descent into insanity. The poor duckling did sleep well last night but the night before was dreadful for us all. She was begging for 'seep' (sleep) while coughing too hard to drop off. Today she's better but grumpy. My usually happy, singing toddler is, in fact, less than chirpy. Her usually cheerful enough mummy is, not entirely coincidentally, slightly disgruntled too. My personal space has been non existent. My ears have been battered with near constant plaintive sobs of 'Mummy!' for several days now. This too shall pass. Probably when that *insert expletive* canine gets with the plan!
Luckily for us we had a meet up with friends to distract us today. Luckily for me those friends are both mums of toddlers too. It's wonderful to relax and talk honestly about the areas of parenting I feel I could do better at. I nearly wrote 'my parenting failures' but that's too hard on myself. There has never been a day where her needs have not been met. There have been days where I have been about ready to tear out my own hair though. There have been days when I've caught my breath, so close to screaming or lashing out myself that it's scared me.
I do not condone violence towards children, and while I appreciate that many people feel that smacking is an appropriate part of their parenting arsenal I cannot stomach it in my own house. I know that while I am not a 'bad' person I am also less than perfect and I know my own temper. If I used smacking as a technique it would be through anger and for my benefit, not for hers. It would do far more harm to us both and our relationship than any good that could come from it would justify. It would abuse the power I have over her as her parent, her guardian, the person (along with her father) that she trusts the most, and as someone bigger and stronger than her. I cannot talk about a testimony of peace while showing my daughter violence and pain as a method of instruction. I also can't expect her to learn peaceful conflict resolution if I'm not demonstrating it.
I've only has nearly 21 months to practice this so it's a work in progress, but here's my approach to remaining calm on tricky days.
- Deep breaths. It's amazing how the pause and the extra air can help me to think of a way through the moment that doesn't involve screaming or running away with the circus!
- Count to 5. Thinking time is good.
- Use that time to think of a different way to phrase requests, if it's a request non compliance that's riving me up the wall.
- Watch my tone of voice. If I sound angry it scares her. If I sound frustrated she gets frustrated. Speaking levelly helps us both feel the moment's under control.
- Get down to her level and ask her to look at me. It's scary being small (we all remember it, right?) so being the same size as her and clearly taking her thoughts on board works wonders.
- Stop using long words at her! This is another 'rephrase' really, but remembering her age an using words and sentences she can follow. Long rants are for my satisfaction but she can't follow the simple request in the middle if I'm using twelve words where 3 will do.
- Step away for a moment if I'm too close to losing it. Make sure she's safe first and that she knows I'll be back when I've done 'x' task (Taking a mug to the kitchen is my fall back).
- Cbeebies. A book we haven't read for a while. Painting. Cooking rice crispy cakes. Any fun distraction!
- Apologise when I muck it up. We 'make friends' again and the day gets better.