Whether you’re transitioning to a more peaceful parenting style or you have a longstanding commitment to parenting with respect, this post is for you.
Parenting with empathy and love is the most important thing we can do for our families and for society as a whole. There is nothing more vital than our children’s wellbeing. Peaceful parenting helps our children grow into kind, confident, creative people.
But peaceful parenting (perfect parenting?) is an unattainable goal at times. An ideal we never quite reach.
We mamas can be so hard on ourselves (and sometimes on each other). But we all mess up. We all have moments when we react instead of respond.
This post is about getting back on track when you veer from the path of peaceful parenting.
Intention vs Reality
In my last post, I advocated for unconditional parenting. I wrote that we should show our children unconditional love regardless of their behavior.
The next day, I did the exact opposite.
When my toddler bruised my temple with a block (that kid has an arm), I reacted instead of responding. I grabbed his arm, scolded him, and left the room. I sat on the opposite side of a glass door while he cried.
Everything I know not to do.
There can be such a gulf between knowledge and kneejerk reaction.
Go easy on yourself.
What I did was unacceptable. But I have to accept it, and move forward.
Sometimes we need to hold two opposing thoughts and accept that both are true.
It’s not okay to hurt children, to speak harshly, to withhold love as a form of punishment.
But it’s okay to be human. To feel triggered. To mess up sometimes.
So what now?
What can you do after reacting in anger?
Before you can do anything, you need to calm down.
It may help to get some space. Let your kids know (after you’re calm, if necessary, but ideally before you step away) that you’re doing this so that you can calm down — not as punishment.
I stepped outside for a minute and took some deep breaths. Not an ideal response, since this was more upsetting to my son than anything, but sometimes we just need a moment to reset.
If possible, ask someone else to give your kid some love while you calm down. I try not to leave my son alone when he’s upset, but I’ll leave him with his Papa if I need a moment.
It may also help to talk to someone. There was no one else around when this happened, but I texted my friends and cousins for support. Their kind words helped calm the guilt and anger that were swirling through my chest.
If you react in anger on a daily basis, consider counseling and/or a listening partnership to better regulate your own emotions. It can be so difficult to stay calm in the face of huge emotions, especially if you didn’t experience peaceful parenting as a kid. But it’s possible. You can break the cycle.
Make room for whatever helps you be a better parent. Daily exercise, yoga, meditation, time with friends — whatever helps you.
As soon as I had my temper under control, I offered my son a wholehearted apology. And because toddlers are beautifully forgiving, he rushed me with a hug.
Apologizing sets a good example. It shows kids that even parents, these nigh-infallible gods (from a toddler’s perspective) make mistakes. And more importantly, it models how to own your mistakes and make amends.
But the most important thing about an apology is that it sets the stage for reconnecting. Chances are, your child acted out because they felt disconnected from you. My son threw a block at my head when I was talking to my grandma on the phone, because I had been on the phone all morning instead of being present with him.
Look at what triggered your reaction and what drove your child’s behavior.
My trigger was the pain and surprise of having a hunk of wood hurled at my temple.
My toddler’s behavior stemmed from a lack of connection, feeling ignored and frustrated.
And there were other factors underlying both of our moods. Hunger, a morning inside, pent-up energy, isolation. Lots of things I can focus on to set us up for better mornings.
Set an Intention
Once you’ve identified everyone’s triggers, ask yourself how to avoid a repeat situation. Meet your needs and theirs before things get desperate.
Personally, I could have been more tuned in to what my son was feeling. He was communicating his frustration long before he chucked a block at me. I could have gotten off the phone with my grandma and given him the attention he needed.
I need to do everything I can to support both of us. Healthy (and timely) meals, plenty of time outside, time with friends.
But let’s be real. Even if I do everything “right”, there will be times that my toddler throws things, or hits, or screams. Growing up is tough!
How can you parent peacefully, even when triggers do arise?
Take a deep breath (or several) and don’t react (unless a kneejerk reaction is necessary to keep someone safe). When that initial flash of anger has cooled, look at the underlying need driving your child’s behavior.
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If there are other peaceful parenting books or blogs that have helped you, please share in the comments. Thanks for reading!