With so many ways to be a good parent, it’s easy to let doubt creep in about the effectiveness of your approach. I believe we should let parents raise their children as they feel is right for their family; if it works for you, it’s right for you. But what happens when you’re not sure that what feels right is having any positive effect at all, because that cute but suddenly-beastly kiddo is not the same happy toddler you were parenting a year ago?
I would choose discipline over punishment when navigating tough situations with my daughter, because I think it implies a teachable moment over being purely punitive, but even as I used discipline I felt there was something missing in that approach for me.
I was doing a lot of yelling along with my disciplining. It was exhausting and ineffective. It was noisy and pointless. Every day was feeling like a struggle for me when I yelled. It was constantly loud and tense in my house and despite the added volume, my daughter wasn’t hearing me. I realized I wasn’t truly hearing her, either. What we were missing in my discipline approach was connection.
Peaceful parenting. Mindful parenting. Positive parenting. Call it what you will, but the more I learned about, the more I clicked with this parenting style.
I knew I had found what was right for me when I realized I was practicing mindful parenting before I even had the words to describe it. Something I implemented with my daughter awhile back was what she now calls “a few deep breaths.” I had made the decision to stop trying to yell over my daughter’s tantrums and gave up obsessing over appearing “in control” and “in charge” when my daughter was crazy-upset about something. Instead, I decided to wait it out. Let her experience her frustration, or anger, or hurt feelings. Validate that it’s okay to have strong emotions and not have to suppress them. But I wanted her to know that, even through her tantrums, that I was there for her. That I wasn’t going to leave just because she wasn’t her usual happy self. I’d sit, wait it out, and let her know I was there when she needed a hug or was ready to take a few deep breaths. (I later felt validated in my “sit and stay” approach after reading this.)
That’s how the deep breaths began. I’d wait until she was calmer, usually sniffling and wet with tears, when she’d climb into my lap to reconnect after her tantrum. I’d then further calm her down by prompting her to take a few deep breaths, together. It worked wonders. We continued with this. The tantrums didn’t stop; I mean, she is a toddler and, after all, the point wasn’t to stop the tantrums altogether. But we did find our way through them with more ease. Before I knew it, she’d be in the middle of a tantrum, and recognize she wanted to stop but didn’t know how to do it on her own. That’s when she’d call out “a few deep breaths, mommy!!” between sobs.
Now we both know. I’ll be by her side no matter what, with my arms and heart open, ready to accept her, always and through it all. We’ll just take it one day, one breath, at a time.