Last month I attended a Peaceful Parenting Mini Retreat, put on by Sarah Joseph of Prenatal to Parenting and Lou Lynn of Little Tree Yoga. The three hour session was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, and I learned a lot. One of the things that most stood out for me, though, was when Sarah led an exercise to help us all identify our top cards.
I don’t remember exactly how the exercise worked, but the point of it was to pinpoint your go-to mode of operation when faced with a difficult situation. Unsurprisingly, for me, my top card is control. This means that when I encounter adversity, I want to control it. I’ve always described myself as delightfully neurotic, so it wasn’t exactly news to me. However, sitting and chatting with other people who share my reaction, and reflecting on how it impacts the people around me, was helpful.
Let’s face it – parenting brings its share of stress. Even a good day can quickly go south when you’re hanging out with a toddler or a preschooler. In fact, sometimes good days are especially prone to going south. A kid who’s having a whole lot of fun is likely to get overtired and have a meltdown. These little (and big) upsets are simply inevitable. What isn’t inevitable is how I, as a parent, respond to the upset.
They say that when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. In my experience that’s very true. When difficulties erupt and I respond by going into overbearing control mode, it impacts the mood in my house. When my kids were younger they responded by trying to lighten the mood and make me laugh, which only chafed at my inner type A. Now that they’re older they often respond by behaving better – but only because they’re afraid. They become still and quiet, pulling in on themselves and avoiding eye contact. This doesn’t make me feel great.
Lately I’ve been trying a two-pronged approach to reduce those situations where I get triggered and pull out my top card. The first part is doing my best to avoid putting myself in a situation that I know is going to end badly. I make sure to go to bed at a semi-reasonable hour. I feed myself and my kids regularly. Even something small like having a cup of tea can help me end a bad situation. The second part of my approach is to try my best to be aware of how I’m feeling, so that I can act instead of react.
The truth is that it doesn’t always go well. I still yell at my kids more often than I would like. I still stay up too late some nights, and find myself becoming impatient the next day due to sleep deprivation. I still take it personally when my kids act up in public, as if they’re deliberately annoying me rather than just being normal kids. It’s a work in progress. I’m a work in progress. Our family is a work in progress. I’m just doing my best to make sure that we’re heading in the right direction, one day at a time.
I think maybe that’s all we can do as parents, after all. Take care of ourselves and our kids to the best of our ability, one day at a time.
What about you? How do you react when things aren’t going well – and how do your kids respond? Do you have any techniques for keeping things on an even keel when they’re threatening to go sideways? I’d love to hear!
I was inspired to write this post for the 10 Week Peaceful Parenting Challenge Blog Carnival hosted by Prenatal to Parenting. Our theme this week is Creating Awareness. If you enjoy this week’s posts you may want to consider joining in next week for Mindful Breathing.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
Balancing being a stay-at-home-mom & working from home – Sarah from Prenatal to Parenting realizes her home base business and mommy duties don’t mix well.