Welcome to the June 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting:
Parenting in Theory vs. in Reality
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants are sharing how their ideas and methods of parenting have changed.
There is a war on, and if you listen to many parents, one would believe it is a war between parents and children. I hear people talk about picking their battles with their kids, living in the parenting trenches, and about the war against parents. Listening to some of these people, one would think that parenting is the absolute worst torture. They have been held down, tied up, and forced into this hell called parenting, where children live to frustrate their children.
I’ll be honest. Parenting is not always about rainbows and unicorns. There are things that get in the way of such a potentially fulfilling job: pee in the middle of a diaper change in the middle of the night, poo (enough said), and vomit, especially the kind that comes on suddenly or in a child young enough that s/he cannot hit a bowl. Oh, the vomit….*shudder* There are definitely the not so glorious parts about parenting, but it comes as a package deal, something that everyone of us took on when we made the decision to become a parent and have the responsibility, and opportunity, to raise these amazing little people, ready to explore, and to learn, and to love.
There can be frustrating moments. I have had some myself with my own children. Those frustrating moments for parents generally happen due to a developmental leap by the child when the parent hasn’t quite caught up, when there isn’t enough connection between parent and child, when the child’s (or parent’s) needs are not being met, or when communication is lacking. It is easy to parent and work with someone when everything is going well. The true test is when things aren’t going as planned.
I have had some of my own fail moments. I don’t hit or yell at my kids, but there have been times when my voice had risen above its normal, quiet speaking voice. There are times when tone has made its way into my voice, against my better judgment and aspirations. There have even been times when I have sighed in exasperation, passive aggressive at best. Those aren’t moments I am proud of. I apologize to my children when I mess up. I vow to myself to be better. I work toward meeting those goals.
So, while I understand that there can be frustrating moments as a parent, and that there are times when having someone listen can be beneficial, what I can’t understand is the worst parent competition that seems to ensue, even among parents who say they practice gentle parenting. Hearing or reading that parents hit their kids, while shocking to me in and of it-self, seems to bring out the other parents with their own hitting stories. The threads turn into major confessions where each parent tries to outdo the others with examples of bad parenting, from hitting to threats to anything else, and jokes are made, at the expense of the children. When children mess up, most parents don’t congratulate them for hitting another person and laugh it off with tales of other people they have hit. The parents talk to them seriously, discuss other ways to handle the situation, and help rectify any problems which led up to the situation. We try to help our kids do better. There is a time for someone to admit fault and ask for help to do better. These threads aren’t about validating that people make mistakes and are asking for support. The typical worst parenting moment threads are about validating the behavior, something which is not gentle or supportive of relationships.
So, how can parents find support to be the parents that they claim they want to be?
- Mindfulness If you don’t think about what you are doing and act according to how you really want to act, you will just move on as you have been. It takes purpose to become a better person and a better parent.
- Research I know I am a research freak and that there are many bad parenting books out there, but neither negates the fact that there are some very good books out there, too, whose purpose is to help parents break the cycle of violence (whether physical or not). Two of my favorites are Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children and Between Parent and Child: The Bestselling Classic That Revolutionized Parent-Child Communication. These aren’t the only two books. I have a list of books to start with if you are looking for help. You may think you don’t have time now, but what about when your children are grown and you can’t change the past?
- Support System Set up a support system. Alcoholics don’t go to meetings to hear about the latest parties or how often the other members got wasted. They go there for support so that they won’t drink. They want to change. Find like-minded friends who parent the way you want to. Ask for help or advice when you need it and actually listen to the people you admire. Find a mentor. If you don’t physically have people around you who support gentle parenting, look online. There are people out there. Not everyone parents through fear or force or coercion.
- Have Compassion Have compassion for both yourself and your children. Sure, not everyone is at 100% all of the time. Life happens and, depending on where we are in our lives, we don’t always act the way we would have wished. But as someone I know recently said, factors may explain certain behaviors, but they don’t excuse them. Strive to be better and help those around you to be better, regardless of age.
- Make Choices and Own Them There is a RUSH song that says “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Every day we are faced with choices, and we get to decide how to handle them. Do we choose to focus on the negative or the positive? Do we choose happiness or ill-content? Do we make choices which bring us connection and understanding or choices which tear us further apart? Make your choices and stand by them. If you made a wrong choice, admit it.
- Don’t Forget Your Compass Sometimes when you get lost, you need to pull out your compass and reset on the path that will take you where you want to go. Where do you want to be? As a person? As a parent? What pulls you back on the path and steers you to be that person?
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (posts will be live and updated no later than afternoon on June 11):
- My little gastronomes — “I’ll never cook a separate meal for my children,” Maud at Awfully Chipper vowed before she had children; but things didn’t turn out quite as she’d imagined.
- Know Better, Do Better. Except When I Don’t. — Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy was able to settle in her parenting choices before her children arrived, but that doesn’t mean she always lives up to them.
- Judgments Made Before Motherhood — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks back on her views of parents she came in contact with before she became a mother and how much her worldview of parenting has changed!
- A Bend in The Road — Lyndsay at ourfeministplayschool writes about how her visions of homeschooling her son during the elementary school years have changed drastically in the last year – because HE wants to go to school.
- I Wish Children Came with Instruction Manuals — While Dionna at Code Name: Mama loves reading about parenting, she’s not found any one book that counts as an instruction manual. Every child is different, every family is different, every dynamic is different. No single parenting method or style is the be-all end-all. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if parenting were like troubleshooting?
- The Mistakes I’ve Made — Kate at Here Now Brown Cow laments the choices she made with her first child and explains how ditching her preconceived ideas on parenting is helping her to grow a happy family.
- I Only Expected to Love… — Kellie at Our Mindful Life went into parenting expecting to not have all the answers. It turns out, she was right!
- They See Me Wearin’, They Hatin’ — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different contemplates putting her babywearing aspirations into practice, and discussed how she deals with “babywearing haters.”
- Parenting Human Beings — Erika Gebhardt lists her parenting “mistakes,” and the one concept that has revolutionized her parenting.
- Doing it right: what I knew before I had kids… — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud, guest posting at Natural Parents Network realises that the number one game in town, when it comes to parenting, is judgement about doing it right. But “doing it right” looks different to everybody.
- A synopsis of our reality as first time parents — Amanda at My Life in a Nut Shell summarizes the struggles she went through to get pregnant, and how her daughter’s high needs paved the way for her and her husband to become natural parents.
- Theory to Reality? — Jorje compares her original pre-kid ideas (some from her own childhood) to her personal parenting realities on MommaJorje.com.
- The Princess Paradigm — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen had planned to raise her daughter in a sparkly, princess-free home, but in turn has found herself embracing the glitz.
- Healthy Eating With Kids: Ideal vs. Real — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs had definite ideas about what healthy eating was going to look like in her family before she had kids. Little did she realize that her kids would have something to say about it.
- How to deal with unwanted parenting advice — Tat at Mum in Search thought that dealing with unwanted parenting advice would be a breeze. It turned out to be one of her biggest challenges as a new mum.
- How I trained my 43 month old in 89 days! — Becky at Old New Legacy used to mock sticker charts, until they became her best friend in the process of potty training.
- My Double Life: Scheduling with Twins — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot was banging her head against the wall trying to keep up with the plan she made during pregnancy, until she let her babies lead the way.
- Parenting in the land of compromise — As a holistic health geek trying to take care of her health issues naturally, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama regrets that her needs sometimes get in the way of her children’s needs.
- Practice Makes Good, Not Perfect — Rachael at The Variegated Life comes to see that through practice, she just might already be the parent she wants to be.
- 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering: How to Free Yourself and Your Family — Sheila Pai at A Living Family shares in theory (blog) and reality (video) how she frees herself from 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering that can damage the connection, peace and love she seeks to nurture in her relationships with family and others.
- 5 Things I Thought MY Children Would Never Do — Luschka at Diary of a First Child largely laughs at herself and her previous misconceptions about things her children would or wouldn’t do, or be allowed to do.
- Policing politeness — Lauren at Hobo Mama rethinks a conviction she had about modeling vs. teaching her children about courtesy.
- The Before and The After: Learning about Parenting — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work reminisces about the perspective she held as a young adult working with children (and parents) . . . before she became a mother.
- Parenting Beliefs: Becoming the Parent You Want to Be — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how we can make a mindful decision to become the parent we want to be. Decisions we make affect who we will become.
- The Great Breastfeeding Debacle — In Lisa at The Squishable Baby’s mind, breastfeeding would be easy.
- What my daughter taught me about being a parent — Mrs Green asks, “Is it ever ok to lock your child in their bedroom?”
- Sensory Box Fail! — Megan at The Boho Mama discovers that thoughtful sensory activities can sometimes lead to pasta in your bra and beans up your nose.
- Montessori and My Children – Theory vs. Reality — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares her experiences with Montessori parenting and describes the results she sees in her now-adult children.
- I Like The Mother I Am Now More Than The Mother I Intended To Be — Darcel at The Mahogany Way thought she would just give her kids the look and they would immediately fall in line.