Around two years ago I was on Pinterest one evening just scanning through the parenting and kids genre when I came across a pin that I actually stopped and read on the spot. Yes that it right I didn’t just repin, never to be looked at again. I actually stopped and read the article. I was led to a website called AHAParenting.com by the American Psychologist Dr Laura Markham. Well I can tell you that since reading that article my whole philosophy on parenting and now on my life has changed. It changed because Dr Laura Markham’s number one tip on parenting, is about learning that you need to be able to manage yourself, regulate your emotions and take care of your own wellbeing. The best metaphor for it is what they teach you during aeroplane safety demonstrations. ‘Put the Oxygen Mask on yourself first, before assisting your children.’ Her other two principals about connection with and coaching children rather than controlling really hit me to my core. The more I have read about her approach, the more I have been led to learn from others such as Janet Lansbury whom is an advocate of the RIE approach, one of the main components being to treat children with respect as we would any other adult, rather than little beings without their own needs and wants, whom we order around and expect to obey our commands.
I still have a lot of reading and learning and practice to do. But I feel so liberated to have found this approach to parenting. I haven’t written about my current path in life because I have always felt that I might be dishonouring my parents whom I know love me deeply and would welcome me with open arms if my life ever fell apart, and whom were wonderful in teaching my brothers, sister and I to be valuable and caring people in this world. But we learn how to be parents from our own parents and childhood. When we are triggered by our children and get angry or upset with them, it is usually because of something from our own childhoods. For example, I was one of four siblings whom fought and had to share my parents love and so when my children fight amongst each other and hurt each other I become a Mama Tiger and get so angry at them for wanting to hurt each other, that I just see red and find it hard to calm myself down enough, to not cause a bigger problem between them from telling them off for hurting each other when all they really wanted and needed at the time was a little attention. This is something I am definitely working on at the moment and have enrolled in Dr Laura Markham’s three month online course based on her book Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids. She also has a second book called Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings. Both of which I first read as copies from the local library. I have even seen them in the Australian online libraries so you don’t even have to leave your home to get access, all you need is a library membership!
All of this self learning and looking at myself and realisation that I can change the wiring of my brain and nervous system also go me into reading and viewing YouTube footage of Oprah and her Super Soul Sessions, which put me onto Tony Robbins. I had heard about Tony Robbins in the past, but as with the reading of parenting material (other than the pre birth stuff – you know ‘What to expect when your expecting’ and ‘Up the Duff’ kind of stuff, I thought I knew enough and had enough self knowledge to know how to be the best parent I could be and the best me. Turns out there is so much more I can learn and so much more I can be!!
One of the first things I did, on what has turned into personal journey, rather than just what I thought was about me wanting to create lasting relationships with my kids that I delight in, was that a few months ago I took Facebook off my phone and iPad. It was the best thing I have ever done! It now frees up my time to do more reading and viewing of YouTube videos/TED talks etc that I really want to watch and learn from. It means that I am not distracted and tempted to look at my phone when I am with my kids. The big one is that I am not constantly giving my self the opportunity to look at other peoples lives and make comparisons with my own whether positive or negative. Don’t get me wrong, I love finding out that my cousin whom I rarely see has finally gained her certification as a fully fledged Psychologist or a friend I knew ten years ago is expecting to have her first child. But the daily grind of seeing what everyone else is doing can become tiring and I found that instead of spending 15, 20 or even 30 minutes living life, I was scrolling through and viewing the lives of others instead of being present and enjoying mine.
Another step I have taken is limiting screen time in my household. From Sunday afternoon to Friday evening we are screen free during the school term (my husband watches tv in the evening once the kids go to bed). During the 6 week Summer holidays just past, we had a two PJ days where the kids had free range of the screens. I found we didn’t really need anymore that that as there was so many other things to do over the summer and because we weren’t on a time schedule the kids were getting enough down time anyway. About every third night during the holidays, we would have a family movie night. Most weekends I also allowed morning tv which gave Hubby and me some time to not so much sleep in as the kids already woke us to see if they could put the set on, but to have a lie in or a quieter breakfast and morning. As part of the Peaceful Parenting approach, Dr Laura Markham recommends as a preventative method to spend one on one time with each child every day and so when we were at home and the one year old was napping the older two would take it in turns to have 15-30mins alone with just me while the other played on the iPad. I didn’t completely like doing this as I find my four year old son especially has issues in being able to detach himself from the device, but it meant the child whom I was with was able to have my 100% focus and attention on them. Now that they are back at school we are still fitting in this special time but in the evening whilst the other child is in the bath or with their dad. We are trying to alternate nights so that one night they have time with their dad, whilst I take over the bathing and getting into PJ’s duties.
At this point if you have continued to read, I guess you might be saying gee some of this seems like a lot of work. But the thing is having kids is a lot of hard work and previously all the hard work I was putting in was not fun at all. I didn’t like trying to force my kids onto a time out step/chair to sit for so many minutes(OMG the energy this took!!) and think about how much they hated their brother or sister or me because they were in trouble, or worse how theyare they were the most unlovable person ever because they could not control themselves – because lets face it, what child really sits there thinking about what they have done and how they can be better next time. I didn’t like putting my child in their room to hear them cry and sob it out by themselves, I hated hearing stuff such as – don’t hold them/carry them/hug them because if you give into them, that’s all they will want next time. In the past both my older children needed me to be next to them to fall asleep. Since ensuring that they get one on one time during the day with either mum or dad, we have filled their cup for their need of us and they are now both happy to lie in bed and listen to an audio book tape (after having been read to by us of course) and then fall asleep by themselves. This in itself is a miracle considering my eldest is now 6 almost 7!
The biggest thing is that I am learning to be present and really enjoy my children and my life. I hope that if you have read this today that you do not compare yourself in anyway, but that you instead use some of the links I have provided and look up the websites, books and people. That you think about some of the things and either say I’d like to try less screen time or ensuring I spend one on one time with each of my kids every day, and if it’s not for you just be honest with yourself and say this is not the approach you would take. This is only a short snap shot of my journey and I am hoping to keep updating my blog weekly, and can’t wait to read back on this in a year to see how far I have come.