Monday, December 26, 2011

I Just Want to Be a Good Mom

It's Monday. This particular Monday is the day after Christmas. All my kids are off to spend the second half of their holiday break with the other parents, my husband has left town for the week on business, and I'm left here. To work, to rest, to clean up the Christmas carnage, and (as it inevitably happens in the quiet that accompanies the lack of little ones) to think.

You know what I'm thinking about? I'm thinking I just want to be a good mom. A happy mom. A mom whose kids behave well and are happy, healthy and successful. I'm thinking about all the times in the last week where I lost my cool, barked out orders, and (in my mind) ruined an entire road trip and holiday for our kids.

Now, I know I didn't completely ruin Christmas or any other day for that matter, but surely I'm not the only mom who FEELS that way after getting frustrated with toddler throwing a temper tantrum or a teenager rolling her eyes at you! Can I get an amen?

In the same way that I'm tired of my pants not fitting right and I'm ready to embrace The South Beach Diet, I'm ready for a change in my parenting and discipline. There has to be a better way. I'm tired of feeling like the more I try to get my kids to do what they're supposed to do, the more they rebel. And the more they rebel, the harsher I become and the worse I feel for hurting their feelings and causing them to feel bad about themselves. Bottom line is this: when it comes to the harder issues, what I'm doing isn't working and no one is happy about it.

For the most part, our home is a happy one. Our kids aren't "bad" kids. They are happy children, get along well with each other and other children, and are successful in school and extracurricular activities. I don't think we're at the level that we need to call Supernanny, but there is definitely room for improvement. As the children grow, I know we will encounter more and more challenging issues (am I the only one who's terrified of adolescence?!), and I believe now is the time to get a handle on things so we're prepared.

So, I've picked up my copy of Parenting with Love and Logic. I had all but forgotten about it until I was looking for another book on my shelf and ran across it. My bookmark was on page 60. Apparently I never finished the journey! I went ahead and started from the beginning and let me tell you, this book is hitting all my hot buttons.

This book outlines several parenting styles which are ineffective, highlighting a lot of the things I find myself doing. I boss, I remind, I nag, I threaten, and say things like, "how many times do I have to tell you [fill in the blank]?" All of which are not helpful, for a variety of reasons.

I haven't yet finished the book, but there are a couple of things that really stand out to me. Parents who practice the Love and Logic techniques do not feel the need to control their children, rather, they allow the natural consequences of their child's actions to test the quality of those actions. They set firm and appropriate boundaries, and give children choices which prevent them from "breaking the rules" while also giving them opportunities to be naturally rewarded or challenged through those decisions.

Once I got into Chapter 4, it really started hitting close to home.
"Unfortunately, separating the kids' problems from our problems is not always as cut and dry as we would like. The line between the two often becomes blurred by parental indecision, guilt, insecurity, and our own childhood's authoritarianism. When our guilt or indecision moves us to step into our children's problems, we cater more to our own emotions than to the children's needs. Most kids want us to understand their feelings, not soothe our own emotional turmoil by offering them solutions." (p 61)
Apparently, when I force my kids to do things MY way (because it's the right way, and more importantly because I said so), I'm doing more for my own "need" to be a good parent than I am for the character of my children. Youch!

The title of Chapter 6 is "Gaining Control Through Choices." I never realized how many control issues I had when it comes to my kiddos!
"We don't feel like good parents unless we can run our kids around like little robots. It all boils down to control. We want to control our children. We want them to do what we want them to do, when we want them to do it. At times, our kids fight us with a passion. Before we know it, we're locked into a control struggle." (p 79)
Sound familiar? It does to me. I'm learning that the way I speak to my children has an enormous effect on not only their behavior but their self image. At the end of the day, what's more important? On one hand, your child makes a poor choice, but deals with the consequences and feels empowered and competent enough to make a better decision next time. On the other hand, you have a child who feels put down and demeaned by your bossing and nagging, but does what you say because you've made him feel so badly about himself.

I think I prefer the former, and I'm learning a lot about perspective. How freeing is it to realize that when my child misbehaves it doesn't mean I'm a bad parent? That's huge! All it means is that my KID made a bad choice, and HE is the one who is going to have to deal with it. The more we put that power in the hands of children, the stronger and more competent we allow them to become.

In essence, relinquishing control means more than regaining sanity. It means teaching kids to be responsible for their own actions.

I have quite a bit to read yet, but so far so good! Don't worry, I'll keep you posted and I'll issue a full book report when it's all said and done. For now, here's to responsible kids and NOT feeling like a bad mom!

Love and Honey,

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