I am quite a volatile person. I used to take a lot of pride in this but now it’s a daily tide I have to swim against. I am only 5’2’’ so perhaps it’s a mixture of small person syndrome and having a fierce and wonderful firecracker as my greatest heroine and role model (also known as my Mum) but I always wanted to leave that “Oh, don’t mess with her!” impression.
I have always been great with kids and had a very strong connection to them so when I came across Peaceful Parenting, it sat beautifully with me and all the wonderful resources I strive to use such as Playful Parenting and Parenting by Connection I now put under the umbrella of Empathic Child-rearing. I think this is the one-size-fits-all we are dying for but the only fly in the ointment is ME.
The thing is there are a great number of tools (I have found the 5 Hand In Hand tools to be the best to cover all bases) and they work really well but the problem is that when parenting we often get triggered! Meaning it brings up something deep inside us that can make us feel scared, vulnerable, angry, sad, impatient, unkind or any other number of uncomfortable emotions and most of us were taught to get rid of uncomfortable emotions and fast or we weren’t taught how to appropriately acknowledge and feel our emotions so most of the times when we are flooded by one of these guys we go into Fight, Flight or Freeze mode and that’s when we do or say things we don’t want to, we can’t access our empathy or our peaceful/playfulness or we just simply need to walk (or run) away.
Now, I do believe a lot of this has to do with our own childhood and how we were parented. I know this view can be terribly unpopular as most of us love and appreciate our parents. I know I do very much! It’s important to remember that every parent (us included) does the best they can with the tools they have and there are things you simply can’t predict having a negative impact later in life.
I remember recently addressing something with one of my parents and saying that them doing … has led to me being … (I don’t recommend these conversations haha) and my parent quickly exited leaving me with a passionate “TAKE SOME RESPONSIBILITY!” which is something I do try to do too. I know that I am a living, breathing human with free will and that they can’t be held responsible for all of my shortcomings. I also know that there’s a numerous amount of shortcomings my kids can and will blame my parenting for and that they, like me, will be right in some ways and wrong in others.
That’s why it’s important to realise how crucial these foundations are. Not to the point of overwhelm but just to the point of not aiming for that popular conclusion of “I turned out fine…”
So does this type of parenting then rule out anyone who isn’t born peaceful or perfect or who has had any form of childhood disappointment?
Here I am! Remember me? Miss Volatile! Miss Firecracker the Second!
I am not perfect and I never will be.
Empathic child-rearing is my passion and I have thrown myself into course after course, book after book and I have the answers for most parents and most situations but my own home doesn’t look perfect. That’s because I am also a flawed human with many triggers of my own. So I often ask myself as this career of mine develops, what right do I have to it? Who am I to try and put myself among the leaders in this field? How dare I try to find simpatico with the mentors and people I follow? What’s my point of difference even if people miraculously consider me qualified enough?
Well, I think it’s that I am a real person really experiencing this journey and this way of parenting. If it works for me it CAN work for you! Every time I fall short, I can learn a lesson for all of us and pass it on. I won’t sit here and tell you only the Instagram-approved version of Empathic Parenting. I will show you how a real-life person who struggles to be patient and non-triggered and often struggles to shift into the mode she knows works every time, overcomes those obstacles.
So anyone CAN do this!
The basic principle of Empathic Child-rearing is empathy first. Put yourself in your child’s shoes. I find this easier for under 3’s as they are purely impulsive, they throw food because it is fun, they pull the dog’s tail to see how the dog will react, they do the opposite of what you say to see what power they do or don’t have. Impulse control takes a really long time to develop so it is helpful to remember this the whole way through your parenting. That’s all well and good but in the moment YOU may not be able to access your empathy and often this is because we are being reminded subconsciously of what would have happened to us if we had done that or consciously we are thinking “I need to put a stop to this behaviour or my child will become a brat!”
This is where I find deep-breathing and mantras help “My child is not a problem, my child is having a problem!” or something that helps remind you to come back from that triggered place. Off-track behaviour is always a signal of an unmet need, usually a call for connection or attention and this is where Hand In Hand’s Special Time, Staylistening, Playlistening, Setting Limits and Listening Time work well as both preventative and in-the-moment tools.
Us not naturally peaceful parents in particular need to make sure we get adequate amounts of self-care and you will have your own forms of this but apart from just getting some general fun and relaxation, I think it helps to work through things with a professional (where your means allow) and I think getting some Listening Time and a Listening Partner is essential even if you do also get professional assistance with maintaining your mental health, I think you need to Find Your Tribe and Build A Village (there are now many places online to do so if you aren’t lucky enough to have helpful friends and family members).
Also, have a look at these easy steps to get started or give your empathic parenting a boost.
Then there’s always me! Your very real and raw friend on this parenting journey! I mean it when I say if you need help, advice or Listening JUST ASK!
Aunty Ask xx