I’m a gentle parent and my kid is a regular kid…
She gets angry
She gets overwhelmed
She gets antsy
She gets impatient
She gets rough
She’s a kid. This is what kids do. I love her unconditionally. I like her for who she is. She is a kid. She is learning every day. She is growing every day.
My job is to love her and guide her peacefully so she experiences unconditional love, acceptance, kindness, and support. My job is to model emotional regulation, to model peaceful conflict resolution, to model acceptance of who a person is at every minute of the day.
I am imperfect. And yet these are my goals. This is how I view my role as parent.
I am human.
My daughter is human.
And our goal is love.
So what do you do when she disrespects you? How do you not lose your mind in the process? What do you do when it doesn’t work? What do you do when your kid thinks she can get away with things because you’re peaceful and nice?
I view my daughter’s behavior as communication, rather than as disrespectful or sneaky or trying to get away with something. When her behavior is off-track she’s trying to tell me she’s tired or hungry or bored. She’s letting me know she feels disconnected, overwhelmed, or lonely. She’s letting me know she’s having big feelings and she needs me to show her how to calm down, how to connect, how to re-engage in ways that brings us both together. She’s reminding me that she loves me and needs me to show her love bc she doesn’t feel it in that moment for whatever reason that I may or may not understand.
And so I move close. I connect with a gentle touch and eye contact (if she’s open to that in the moment).
I empathize, “I see you’re having big feelings.”
I reflect, “You’re shouting and you want to be heard.”
I model emotional regulation so she sees what it looks like, and so she can be grounded in my own calmness in order to find her calm space.
I set boundaries, too, of course! (Here is an example of how it looks.)
I remind myself that she’s not trying to get away with something, she’s only trying to communicate in the only way she can in that moment.
Sometimes I do feel like I’m going to lose my mind. Sometimes I feel like yelling or yanking her arm or running from the room screaming. Sometimes I tell her I have to go to the bathroom so I can calm myself and deal with my own emotions. Sometimes I allow myself to have a big glass of water and get re-centered. Sometimes I do those great anger-releasing exercises by Patricia Hope (here and here). And sometimes my daughter joins me in these exercises and it breaks the tension as we laugh.
She and I are human. And humans need connection. And when we feel disconnected and overwhelmed, none of us tend to act our best. And so that is my goal. That is how I try to respond. And I am human.
Every day I go to bed and think on love. Every day I wake up and think on love.
It is all I can do…every single day.