It’s really important to remember that children are always going to be led off-track. There are dysregulating experiences they face every day even if (and this is incredibly unlikely) both you and them have healed every earlier trauma/hurt you’ve experienced.
Any activities outside the home (especially day care or school) will most likely cause them to experience social strain, witness or be privy to name calling or physical hurts, as well as any number of small confusions or painful interactions which add to a larger sense of uneasiness. I’m by no means suggesting we bubble-wrap our kids, I am just pointing out that even the best-loved, most connected children will still have big feelings to offload and reveal through emotional release and/or off-track behaviour.
When I started my Peaceful Parenting journey it all connected very easily for me. I totally understand the concepts and believe in them wholeheartedly. I also saw some amazing results in certain scenarios (particularly when using Playful Parenting). Now it’s about 5 years into my journey. I read parenting articles and books most of the time when I am not parenting. I have done Dr Laura Markham’s Peaceful Parenting, Happy Kids course, Marion Rose’s Attachment Play, Circle of Security, Hand In Hand’s Starter Course and almost all their short courses. I am well on the road to calling myself a “parenting expert”.
So does my home look perfect? Absolutely not.
This was starting to really frustrate me and get me down at times. More so with that constant dread of judgment. At times I feel like there are many eyes following this journey intently waiting for the moment when I finally realise that this stuff is a pipe-dream… but then I looked closer… I also remembered what I’ve mentioned above. Just because we are thrashing this stuff doesn’t mean that my child (or let’s be honest, myself) will never get triggered but the beautiful truth is in what happens now versus what used to happen.
My biggest issue at the moment is sibling rivalry. I have done the HIH Sibling Rivalry course and read How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk recently so my main focus at present is changing the story from child A as relentless instigator and child B as poor, innocent victim and just approach the scenario afresh each time (easier said than done).
So in a recent example, my kids were fighting and had started chasing each other around the room. I sort of halfheartedly tried some playfulness but I was tired and uninspired and they were much faster and more energetic than me. So I took one of them, held them and said “I will keep you safe!” this child is extremely fearful of the driving emotions behind anger and is very hard to Staylisten (listening empathically to big feelings) to. This child started to thrash and hurt and gently restraining them became more and more difficult but I felt emotionally stable enough to try and see it through. I repeated “I will keep you safe.” And occasionally added “I love you” “You are loved” and “I am sorry I haven’t always kept you safe.” The thrashing and resistance continued and I felt myself starting to feel less emotionally generous so I finished with an “I’m here when you need me and I love you.” And walked away to write a letter. In the letter, which I slid under the door, I told my child that I love them and that I wish they knew they were safe and that they were good and their feelings were good and safe too and that if they would let me listen to them they would feel better. I said I loved my child and that I always would no matter what.
Nothing was said about the letter but about half an hour later my child requested Special Time. During Special Time there was a small thing we both laughed at and I jumped on this opportunity and soon we were in laughing hysterics. Laughter is another great release and not one that we usually have flowing so freely so suddenly I realised that the earlier emotional release that I wasn’t able to see through and had marked as a “failure” had in fact been successful in getting underneath that first crusty layer and had then led to the second release which was a massive success. My child was also in much better spirits later in the evening, which was a testament to the success of the release process.
I’ve also noticed that my child who has the most issues with impulse control still has that issue but when I meet the off-track behaviour with empathy, there is usually an affectionate apology not long after. Both affection and apologies have been hard for this child so that is a little sign that everything is shifting!
The story of the two releases is an example of success and progress that might have been easy to miss. With all the hard, emotional work we do on this journey we expect to see kids who behave impeccably, we forget that kids who have big meltdowns are actually doing really great emotional work or that off-track behaviour will never be fully eradicated but we can alter the occurrences, how we respond and how our children process them.
So this is another reminder of shifting and re-framing expectations. Anticipate off-track behaviour as an emotionally intelligent signaling to a connected adult. Embrace and take advantage of tantrums, tears, trembling as the great opportunity to offload that they are. Follow the giggles and give yourself self-care and self-compassion for the hard, under-supported, good work that you do. Find yourself a Listening Partner to give yourself the support and healing you deserve and need.
You are good, your children are good and you’ve got this!
But if you need any help… Just Ask!
Aunty Ask xx
PS. If you need help getting started on this parenting path. Have a look at this article.