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.
The first thing I had to do was forgive myself. In my blog post Self Love – Not Just Warm Fuzzies, I wrote –
“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,
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