Lessons Learned From Imperfect Parenting
There is no such thing as perfect parenting. When you take your baby home, the hospital doesn’t hand you a how-to manual. Parents learn on-the-job.
Parents do the best we can with what we know. We tend to take what we liked or didn’t like from our own parents and upbringing. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Wow, I sound exactly like my mom or dad?”
Here are just a few strategies I thought were helpful.
First, it’s vital we regulate and calm ourselves down before we can help try and calm our children. Think about the metaphor when flying on an airplane. The flight attendants give instructions, “If the cabin loses pressure, then the oxygen masks will drop from overhead. Place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting children.”
It would be wonderful if this mask would magically drop down in front of us when experiencing a conflict moment like a huge tantrum so we could be reminded to breathe instead of yelling and screaming. Not many of us learned how to self-regulate as children. We need to be mindful and aware of our own emotions and how we are acting in front of our children. What are we modeling?
Secondly, teach our children to stop and breathe. This will help them learn how to manage their emotions. It’s not just about practicing deep breathing during times of conflict. It’s important to teach them when things are going well too.
For small children, it can be helpful to pretend to blow up balloons so they may learn how to breathe through their nose and out their mouth.
Remember, it takes children 2,000 times to hear something before they really integrate it into their way of being. So, if it doesn’t work the first time, keep trying. Don’t give up. Stay with it.
Third, give your children two positive choices. You may (positive choice #1) or (positive choice #2). Which is better for you?" This will shift the focus to what you want the child to do.
I will be the first to admit, I am not a perfect parent. We all make so called “mistakes,” which are really opportunities to learn and grow. It doesn’t help to beat ourselves up. Know it’s never too late to change what you don’t like. We just have to stop, breathe and, perhaps, try something new.
-Kristen D Boice M.A., LMFT, EMDR Trained
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