Gentle parenting in action; part II
Being the parent you are called to be…
First, thank you for all of the comments on my previous post! I enjoy reading others thoughts, especially since I know all of you and a little about where you are on your parenting journey. From single with no children but surrounded by them at work, to a Mom with twin toddlers it is certainly a wide range of people weighing in. And I think that’s important. We need to talk about these things. Good parenting doesn’t “just happen”. It takes thoughtfulness, weighing options, observing other families, and a lot of self-evaluation.
That last one is the most difficult for sure. As I parent my two young children I am constantly reminded of my own inadequacies and failings. It’s important, though, that I am realistic about who I am and how that will affect my parenting and my children. For example I know that I am a very passionate woman in many ways, that my emotions are volatile and always at the surface, apparent to everyone around me. This includes a quick temper and because I know that about myself I choose even more adamantly not to spank my children. I, very realistically, understand that for me, allowing spanking the “right way” will likely lead to me using it a very wrong way also. I work hard to embrace the parts of who I am that make me a great mama to my kids, and to try and change or improve the parts of my personality that can be harmful to them. But I am gentle with myself, because I am who God made me and while there is always room for improvement, I have to work within the boundaries of the woman God made me to be. I’m reading Eat, Pray, Love right now (by Elizabeth Gilbert) and I think she said it well here:
“God isn’t interested in watching you enact some performance of personality in order to comply with some crackpot notion you have about how a spiritual person looks or behaves.”
For this reason I have to also take a moment to express thankfulness for my husband. Andy is a wonderful father to our children. He’s playful, compassionate, affectionate, and completely interested in them. But what truly impresses me about my husband is that as we have started to deal with some defiance and boundary testing from Charlotte he has to work very hard against his natural inclinations in responding to her. When she cries desperately, her little heart broken, over some small (to us) injustice he WANTS to say “Oh, what a faker you are!”. When she defiantly plays with something he’s asked her not to, or looks at him and say “Do!”, he WANTS to maybe spank or put her in a time out. When she wakes up crying for the 4th time in the middle of the night he WANTS to ignore her.
But he doesn’t do any of those things. He chooses instead to validate her feelings and help her move forward (calling on his strengths by eliciting laughter where there once were tears), he gets down on her level and helps her to obey him with a firm but gentle tone and redirection, and he gets up, for the 4th time, to go and comfort her. He does these things because he, and we, believe that these are the choices that will help our daughter grow into the woman God desires her to be. We’ve made these choices together, and even when it’s harder to get up than it is to ignore, or yell, we agree that it is worth the effort. That our kids are worth the effort.
Both Andy & I realize that we, and our children, benefit from us having a realistic view of ourselves. So while we sometimes have to work against a bad habit or something that was modeled for us in childhood, we also work to encourage each other in embracing the strengths we have. Andy is wonderful at making Charlotte feel safe, and making her laugh. He’s also endlessly patient when he’s teaching her something and always gently encouraging her to try something new.
Now we are not perfect, we fail constantly and our kids are the ones who suffer most often from our failures. But we ask for and offer forgiveness, and we just try and do better next time. That’s all any of us can really do.
(disclaimer: I do not believe that choosing to use spanking as a parenting tool and being an active, involved, loving parent are mutually exclusive. Please see my previous post for more on that.)