“One generation full of deeply loving parents would change the brain of the next generation, and with that, the world.”
– Charles Raison
Parenting is one of the most important jobs there is. Doing it well results in a society that knows how to live with compassion, collaboration and the ability to see other perspectives. The children of today will grow to be our neighbors, our leaders, and the world’s problem solvers.
No pressure, right?
Well, the good news is that there is a lot of information available about how to increase the likelihood that your kids will enter their adult life with the skills they need to thrive. Notice I said, increase the likelihood. There are no magic wands or magic words available that guarantee success. The most powerful tool parents have is the relationship they create with their child.
My name is Casey O’Roarty. I am a wife, the mother of two kids, an 11-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son, and am a member of the Monroe community. I tended bar at the Whistling Post Tavern in Skykomish; I taught elementary school in Index and now I spend my time teaching parents and teachers Positive Discipline. I am honored to be sharing what I know in this monthly column.
Positive Discipline is all about the connections and relationships we create with the children in our life. It is about creating a climate of mutual respect and encouragement in our homes and classrooms. Positive Discipline is effective in the long term, teaching kids social and life skills, and invites children to recognize how capable they are.
Parenting is a series of opportunities to practice being the best version of yourself.
This is what I have come to know to be true. My children have provided me with endless chances to show them what it looks like to self-regulate, to take the high road, to stay centered and do the “right” thing. These chances come throughout the day and night, on a regular basis…Sometimes I rise to the occasion, offering a glimpse of a grownup who is tender and understanding. Sometimes I don’t.
Parenting is not about perfection. We would be doing a disservice to our children if we were models of perfect human beings, because human beings are messy – we are emotional, we have baggage that shows up and is hard to deal with. Parenting is about being real, and honest. Parenting is about making mistakes and then modeling what it looks and sounds like to make things right again. Parenting is a chance to grow into better people.
I always start my classes leading the group through making two lists. The first list is a brainstorm of all the challenges our children give us throughout the day. We fill a whole sheet of paper with things like whining, backtalk, homework struggles, potty training, sibling conflict, not listening, bedtime drama, peer pressure, screen time, meltdowns (any of this sounding familiar?). This list is always the same, with every group I work with. These are the things that drive us crazy, sending us over the edge.
The second list is of the attributes the group hopes their grown children will have developed over the course of their childhoods. Things like kindness, compassion, problem solving skills, patience, work ethic, healthy habits, resiliency, perseverance, tolerance, charity, creativity, relationship skills and environmental stewardship always make the list.
And then I ask one question – How do children learn?
Children learn by our example. They learn by modeling.
So when our whining child is fighting with their sibling over screentime at bedtime (see how many challenges I just put into one scenario??) are we modeling compassion, patience and creativity? Generally not, especially if it is at the end of a long day…. Usually this is when we snap; we become the parent we are not so proud of, fueled by emotions and wondering why we ever thought it was a good idea to have kids in the first place. I know how this feels, because I have been taken over by this parent on more than one occasion.
But here is the beautiful thing. We always have the chance to make it right with our kids. Making it right is calming down and recognizing our mistake, letting our child know we are sorry, and then coming up with something we will do differently the next time the situation shows up. And guess what? The situation will always show up again because we are dealing with CHILDREN! Our work then is to follow through with what we said we would do and show our children what it looks like to take care of ourselves when we are overwhelmed by emotion and want to freak out.
So those two lists I mentioned become a roadmap. The challenges that come up on a daily basis turn into opportunities to teach, practice and model the attributes you want your child to learn to embody. It’s messy, yes; and it requires that we parents take accountability for our own actions, but isn’t that exactly what we expect from our kids??
So my invitation to all of you is to take a deep look at your own practices. How are you showing up for your kids? Do you listen deeply when they have something to say? Do you ask their opinion on how to solve problems? Do you provide them with lots of opportunities to feel capable? Are you making sure the message of love get through, even when their behavior is driving you crazy? Are you creating a home that is encouraging? What steps can you take to model self-regulation in those times of parenting stress?
We are all in this together. Your parenting struggles are the struggles of all parents. It is a journey that is life-long. Might as well take steps to learn from it.
You can find out more about Casey on her website, www.joyfulcourage.com or at the Joyful Courage Facebook page. She will be teaching a one-day workshop Jan. 11, from 10 – 4pm, in Lake Stevens. More information about the class can be found at www.centeredparenting111.