I had sent Jake to sit on “the step” – essentially our version of a time out. I’d warned him that his disrespectful behaviour would land him on the step if it continued. It had continued so he’d spent 5 minutes sitting by himself on the step by our laundry, to “think about his behaviour” and give us all a break.
When Jake got off the step, he asked me tearfully, “How come you don’t have to sit on the step?”
“Well, no one has ever given me a warning”, I replied.
“I’m giving you a warning now,” he said with a scowl (probably the same scowl I use to give him warnings).
“What for?” I asked, thinking through my various parenting misdemeanours of the afternoon – there were a lot of them.
“Shouting”, Jake grumped at me.
It was then that I realised I’d lost my way when it came to disciplining my boys. I guess I’d sensed for a month or two that I was on a downward spiral, my discipline methods slowly slipping further away from my values, but I hadn’t stopped to rethink things. Sending my boys to “the step” was not a strategy I wanted to be using but it had turned into a habit and become my default approach to correcting my boys’ behaviour.
And that’s where the first problem was. The step didn’t actually correct their behaviour at all. The evidence lay in the fact that they were sitting on it more and more often.
The second problem with the step was that it didn’t reflect my parenting values, especially the way I was using it. That we are all spiritual equals requires me to treat everyone with respect, regardless of their age or behaviour. There are times when we parents have to position ourselves as an authority to guide our children but there is no power struggle in a relationship between equals. The step had become a weapon in our power play, me using it to threaten, manipulate and, ultimately, control Jake and Thomas.
How had it got to this?!
LOSING MY WAY
I think the main factor that saw me resorting to the step was that my boys were, inevitably, throwing new challenges my way. I was unprepared to deal with the backchat, defiance and attitude that was increasingly featuring in Jake’s interactions with me and I hadn’t taken the time to figure out how best to respond.
Additionally, the personal truth is that I saw red each time Jake used his new attitude with me, my insecurities about being disrespected instantly triggered. I hadn’t consciously realised that he’d struck a nerve and I had immediately started trying to control Jake rather than taking my time to see what was really going on (for both him and I). I was trying to control him because my I felt out of control.
Being both challenged and triggered, I had slipped away from my own parenting values and my relationship with Jake was suffering. I felt ashamed and disappointed in myself. What was I going to do about it?
GOING INTO TIME OUT
I put myself in a self-imposed time out of sorts to reflect on what was going on and to find a new way of doing things.
“Forgiving ourselves is perhaps the truest act of self-compassion. It allows us to move forward without the burden of our past.”
Taking the time to consider what was going on within me when met with Jake’s emerging ‘tude helped me to understand and empathise with myself. I realised that, when I’m tired, triggered and uncertain what to do, it is natural that I’m going to struggle and this made it easier for me to forgive myself.
Then, I put all my to-dos aside for one morning to figure out how I wanted to go forward. I was prompted to read back over some earlier blog posts I had written about discipline and found that they were actually pretty helpful! I also flicked through some of the parenting books I keep on my desk and thought about what my boys are needing from me at the moment. I devised respectful strategies for dealing with my current parenting challenges.
IN SUMMARY – FLOUNDERING, FORGIVENESS & MOVING FORWARD
As parents, we constantly need to re-evaluate what we are doing, whether it be around discipline or another area of life. As our children grow older, they will bring new challenges our way which will require us to adjust our way of doing things. Don’t we all bemoan the fact that, just as we feel we’re getting the hang of this parenting thing, something new comes our way? It certainly keeps us on our toes -parenthood is about our own evolution as much as it is about our children’s.
We can’t expect ourselves to adjust seamlessly to every change in our children’s development. The changes can surprise us, we’re not necessarily anticipating them. It’s understandable that we will flounder around for a bit each time until we find our way. I’m hoping that, having gone through this, I will recognise more quickly what’s going on when there is another significant change in my boys. Instead of being overwhelmed and punishing myself for my imperfect parenting, I will take a time out to forgive myself and to strategise with Love. Having compassion for ourselves and moving forward deliberately are the only ways to keep up – more or less – with our children.
Much love to you and your little souls,
PS – Where do you feel you have lost your way in your parenting? What can you forgive yourself for? Comment below.
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One night last weekend, I had to get up to Thomas (3-years-old) so many times I lost count. I just couldn’t figure out what he needed and he didn’t seem to know either. When I heard him call out again at 3:34am, it was almost physically impossible for me to open my eyes, which only wanted to sleep. Once I’d managed to rouse myself, I decided I was going to cover all possibilities to secure Thomas and I both at least a couple of hours of unbroken sleep before it was time to get up. So, I fetched him a drink and a snack, added another blanket to his bed, gave him another cuddle and even measured out a dose of paracetamol thinking “this is so unlike him, he must be sick”. It worked for him but all that activity had woken me up and I took another hour to get back to sleep. The next day, I was hopeless.
I cried over a disagreement between my husband and I – we weren’t even arguing, we just had different points of view. I couldn’t muster up any energy or enthusiasm to play with my boys. My patience was paper-thin and I became that shouty parent I wrote about in my post “WHY AM I SHOUTING AT MY CHILDREN?!” All my respectful parenting strategies went out the window and I resorted to the path of least resistance to get my boys’ co-operation – bribery. My brain felt mushy and my body felt like a heavy bag of bones. My inner resources had leaked away along with my sleep.
A BRIEF LESSON ON THE PURPOSE OF SLEEP
We often think of sleep as largely a physical need but it is a lot more than that. Sleep is for the renewal of all parts of ourselves – body, mind and spirit. When sleeping, our bodies don’t have to move beyond their survival functions and natural rhythms. When sleeping, our minds don’t have to perform conscious actions. When we’re awake, the physical needs of our bodies and noise of our thoughts can interfere with our connection to Spirit because they are more obvious and hard to ignore. But, when we are asleep, they are quieter so our souls can more easily connect with and receive spiritual energy and, therefore, be regenerated too.
This is why “sleeping on” a problem can be so helpful. Through sleeping, our soul gets a chance to be heard and offer its intuitive solution. We are often also more creative after sleep. I write these blog posts first thing in the morning because that’s when ideas and words come most easily to me. It is also why there is a healing quality to sleep. When I was depressed, I would take to my bed. Not just to escape from the world but because the break from having to function gave my spirit some refreshment.
“The process of truly becoming yourself takes a lot of energy and this energy can be replenished during naps”. – SARK, Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed
GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP FOR ALL THE FAMILY
Generally, I fall apart if I don’t get at least 7 hours of good sleep. As a result, I have always been very protective of my boys’ sleep, not wanting them to suffer from lack of it. As babies, it was straight to bed as soon as I saw their tired signs (once I figured out which of all my baby’s peculiar little movements were actually “tired signs”). I wasn’t willing to go out for a day and make do with letting them doze in their capsule or buggy because it compromised the quality of their sleep. I have always tried to prioritise and optimise their day naps and night sleeps because it’s so essential to their well-being. (And mine – every parent knows the suffering an overtired child can inflict!) Experiencing true sleep deprivation for the first time as a parent, I also realised I need to prioritise my own sleep.
Fortunately, my long night of getting up with Thomas was during the weekend and my husband was home. So, in the afternoon, when I could barely haul myself out of my chair, I plodded up the stairs to my bed and I had a nap. In her book, Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed, SARK includes permission slips to take naps. I was so grateful when I first saw these. I always feel guilty about deserting my family for nap-land but I do it when I need to because it is essential. When I got up after an hour of dozing that afternoon, I made a lemon pudding for desert and played Lego with Jake. I was restored.
I doubt there is a parent out there who can’t relate to that overwhelmed, can’t-function feeling of sleep deprivation, at least from the newborn days. But, if your exhaustion doesn’t come so much from lack of sleep as it does from being busy and over-committed, I implore you, too, to sleep-in or take a nap when you need it. Sometimes we wear our busyness like badges of honour – we must be important if people are relying on us to do all these things – but we’re miserable and we make those around us miserable too when we’re under-slept.
IN SUMMARY – A PRESCRIPTION OF SLEEP-INS & AFTERNOON NAPS
The title of this post may have seemed tongue-in-cheek at first but it’s not. When we’re tired, any energy we have (physical, mental and spiritual) is used up on simply surviving and there is none left to be our best selves. We want to be patient and kind and wise and all those sorts of things as parents – and just as people – but these can be near-on impossible when we’re sleep deprived. Our bodies, minds and spirits are all beautifully connected and they all need plenty of sleep.
Let’s teach our children to take care of themselves by having sleep-ins and naps through example. We could even nap with our children on Saturday afternoons.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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As I take a moment to stop and watch my boys play or sleep, drinking them in in the way that mothers do, I sometimes wonder Do they love themselves? They appear happy in their lives, they’re certainly proactive about standing up for themselves, they do the things they enjoy…it looks like they love themselves but I don’t know if I can really tell.
The sad truth is that, although we arrive in this world aligned with Spirit, knowing that we are loving and lovable, at some point, that changes for most of us. Immersed in a society that is quicker to criticise than to encourage, we start questioning our own lovability. As a parent, I often doubt my ability to prevent that shift from happening…but I have to try.
I recently found myself in a pattern of criticising more than encouraging my boys, especially my eldest, Jake. I’d been a bit unwell so my tolerance level was low and my ability to hold my tongue had disappeared almost entirely. After a few days I realised, Oh my goodness, I’ve been picking on my own son! I had fallen into a pattern of regularly judging, prompting and correcting him. Poor Jake couldn’t do anything right – “you didn’t say ‘thank you’”, “stop using your fingers, there’s a knife right there!”, “if you kept your room tidy, you wouldn’t lose your Lego in the first place!” Given the way I was speaking to him, He must’ve thought that I considered him hopeless and, maybe, not loveable in some way. That thought horrified me. The way we treat our children shows them how to treat themselves and I did not want him picking on himself like I had been. I have to show him what it really means to love.
WHAT IS SELF-LOVE?
Self-love is not building up our egos with a c.v. of external “successes” to make it feel worthy of love. It is connecting with our true essence which is love. Self-love is about the way we regard ourselves and the way we treat ourselves, knowing we are inherently loving and loveable. A simple way to explain it to a child is to be your own best friend – appreciate yourself, care for yourself, extend kindness to yourself just as you would a friend.
I’m going to be my own best friend, stick with me till the end. – Jewel
HOW TO LOVE OURSELVES
We love ourselves in the same ways we love other people. If a person doesn’t have much self-love, they may find it grows by treating themselves lovingly anyway. I doubt I’m the only parent on the road back to self-love after years of being unkind to myself so the ideas I offer below are for parents and children alike!
Speak nicely to ourselves We need a cheerleading squad inside our heads, not a judge. For parents, the way we talk to our children becomes the way they talk to themselves – so no picking! We can also coach our children to speak kindly to themselves when we hear them talking negatively about themselves. This doesn’t mean being dishonest, just compassionate. For example, instead of “I stink at reading” we can teach them to say “I am learning to read” or “I’m finding reading difficult right now” or focus them on their effort and determination instead of the reading.
Forgive ourselves when we make mistakes Forgiving ourselves is perhaps the truest act of self-compassion. It allows us to move forward without the burden of our past. Sometimes I can see that Jake is heavy with the regret of something he has done and I suggest to him that he can forgive himself. My post about forgiveness explains more.
Give ourselves what we need Perhaps we feel in need of help, rest or a good laugh over our favourite comedy show. When we honour our needs, we honour ourselves. We can help our children to be aware of their needs and encourage them to be proactive in meeting them.
Do what feels right for ourselves This is about honouring what we know is true for us – from following our dreams (even when they don’t seem “realistic”) to listening to our intuition (even when it doesn’t match popular opinion). We can steer our children inwards to help them make authentic decisions for themselves. My post about intuition may give you ideas about how to do this.
Spend time with ourselves Just as we invest time in our friendships, we need to invest time in ourselves. Hanging out on our own gives us the quiet to hear our own voice instead of others’ for a while. For our children, this means allowing them plenty of unstructured, unscheduled time to potter as they wish.
Do things that bring us joy Our busy lives are often not set up for joy. We tend to prioritise what we think we should do over what lights us up. But it is in joy that we recognise ourselves and recharge. I think it’s important that we prioritise time for our children to do what brings them joy. For example, we can enrol them in the extra-curricular activities they want to go to – not the ones we think, for some reason, they should do. We can use joy as a criteria for planning their time and ours.
Surround ourselves with people who treat us well When we truly value ourselves, we expect other people to value us too. We don’t submit ourselves to others who are disrespectful or hostile. We care for ourselves by choosing kind company, people who lift us up. Children make many new friendships throughout childhood and will likely need our help to become discerning and make positive choices.
WHY IS SELF-LOVE SO IMPORTANT?
Self-love is not simply giving ourselves warm fuzzies to cheer ourselves up. It’s surely a happier life for those who love themselves – and that’s important but it’s not the only benefit. By loving ourselves, we build our strength to truly love another. We practise unconditional love for ourselves in order to be able to extend that love to others. My observation is that it is often those who appear toughest who are actually the weakest – unable to love themselves, they have little to give to others. The ways they are tough on themselves become the ways they are tough on others. Children who love themselves become rich sources of love for the other people in their lives.
As I near the end of this post, perhaps I have stumbled upon the answer to my question of how we can really tell whether our children love themselves. Maybe the depth of love they extend to others is reflective of the love they have for themselves?
IN SUMMARY – OUR ROLE AS PARENTS
In those moments when loving ourselves is hard, it may help us to remember that the Universe created us from Love, exactly the way it wanted us to be. Self-Love is not about building up our egos by counting up our successes and wonderfulnesses. It is about knowing we are successful and wonderful regardless of what we do because we were made that way. Our role as parents is to reflect our children’s lovability back to them so they have no doubt of it. It is also to model self-love so that they may see what it really means to love themselves through the various circumstances of life.
Much love to you and your little souls,
PS – In what ways do you encourage your children to love themselves?
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