Challenging Traditional Parenting
" One day, your child will make a mistake or a bad choice and run to you instead of away from you. And in that moment, you will know the immerse value of peaceful, positive, respectful parenting." - L.R. Knost
Making intentional decisions and questioning things have been in my nature for as long as I can remember. In high school I always asked questions and sought clarification because I wanted to ensure that the work I was doing was inline with the expectations. Along the way I found myself taking those principles and applying them elsewhere. Understanding my responsibilities at work, questioning policy and processes to gain perspective, challenge the systems or simply to understand. Thinking about intentional parenting, how I was raised, how my husband was raised, things we loved from our childhood and things we would do differently, were dinner topics from time to time. Sometimes I find it a great tool to understand the reasoning behind actions, and other times I find it a great exercise to take a minute and think "are we doing things because thats just what you do? Or are we doing this because we're passionate about it and it's important to us." Navigating momhood has solidified some ideas that are important to me in raising my children.
Sharing. Or, lack there of I guess? I've always questioned the traditional expectation of children sharing. The idea that you expect your child to drop their toy (or expect others to drop whatever for you) and share simply because another child (or you) wants to play with it, has never sat well with me. This concept seems bizarre, it instills the idea that your needs/wants are less important than others, teaches to drop what you're doing/playing with (regardless of the investment) and give it to someone else, and (among other things) robs the opportunity for self-directed sharing and collaboration to occur. On the receiving end of things, it teaches children that they can come along and take whatever they want, that their needs/wants are superior, and (among others) robs the lessons for patience, gratitude and thankfulness. I am much more excited to teach respect, patience, waiting turns and creating a space where "sharing" can happen in a less structured way. Simply saying Beau, right now Jackson is playing with the fire truck. When he's finished playing with it, you can have a turn. Would you like to read a book while we wait? Or, Beau, Jackson is excited to play with the fire truck too, when you are finished with it, let's go bring it to Jackson to show him the fun lights and sounds it makes! Or even... Beau, Jackson loves fire trucks too! Would you like to see if he would like to play together with the trucks? Of course there are lots of times where children hog toys, are forgetful when they finish a toy to bring to the next child waiting, or down right pissed they can't play with the fire truck right away. These are all wonderful learning opportunities to teach respect, kindness, patience and gratitude.
Providing choice and creating a yes environment. Now, some of you may be sitting there giggling on silly naive Ellie who hasn't lived with a toddler whose favourite word on the whole planet is no. I'm talking about creating choice and honouring their decision. As the parent you make 99.99% of the decisions for your little ones, I promise it is life changing when you start involving them in those choices. Some things are non-negotiable: you have to go to the grocery store.... where there are aisles upon aisles of unnecessary treats, snacks and colourful anythings that attract little hands with big ambitions. We really need some fruit for dad's lunch, we have lots of snacks at home. Should we bring home Dad bananas or apples? Bedtime is fast approaching there are so many little tasks to be completed. Jammies to get into, books to read, teeth to brush, good nights to be said... bedtime is in ten minutes, would you like to brush your teeth before getting into pajamas or after? Would you like to read one big book or two small books? Creating options for your littles to pick gives them control over their bedtime routine. Simple, mundane decisions for us, are huge opportunities for independence for our children and can go a long way. And last but not least, creating a yes environment. It's much easier than you think. Really challenge yourself why you are saying no.. is it really that necessary? Saying no is important, and because of that we hold power to that word. So question if it's really a big deal to say yes. Do you really want your child to empty the entire tupperware drawer ... probably not.. but is it really a big deal to allow them 20 minutes to empty the drawer, explore all the shapes and colours, then (with your help perhaps) put them back? Just pick your battles I guess and reframe some things. No running in the house vs please walk when we are in the house. No yelling and screaming inside vs please use you indoor voice when inside.
Honouring no and avoiding nicknames.This one is simple, if we teach our children that no means no, we also have to respect when we are on the receiving end of it. I won't be forcing my children to hug their grandparents goodbye, but rather asking, would you like to give Grandma a hug goodbye before she leaves? No? Okay, how about a high-five! (Lots of ways to show our love).... Or What a fuzzy sweater, may I feel it? Can I help you go down the slide? We don't put our hands on other people without asking first. Respecting the decisions they make regarding their body is important. Teaching them ownership over their body provides opportunities to learn body boundaries, consent and respect. Using proper names for anatomy is so so important. Using nicknames for body parts makes it seem like the correct words are bad words, something to be embarrassed about, funny, silly, and not serious, and could create a sense of shame. Learning the proper terms allows a better space for your children to share if they experience inappropriate touching. It may feel taboo, but discussing body parts is so important. Of course, adapt depending on their age, introduce the private aspect of these body parts and create an environment open to questions and discussions. I can't emphasize it enough. Building confidence and trust within your family to talk about your body is an environment I strive to create.
Open door policy and apologizing. I've always wanted to be the house that kids run in and out of. A place that my childrens friends feel welcomed, comfortable and where my children want to be. Part of that atmosphere is creating an open door policy. Leaving our doors open throughout the day not only physically opens the space, but the entire feng shui of the home is shifted. Closing doors is a physical barrier that already creates segregated space. And while there is a time and place for closed doors (bedtime, bathroom, etc) having our doors open both physically and metaphorically is something I am intentional in. An open door policy encourages a two-way communication. Having a comfortable space that facilitates conversation is important to me. Whether it is light-hearted banter, or difficult discussions, I want my family to feel safe and secure. Leading by example, letting go of your pride and apologizing to your children is so impactful. My Mom practiced this, and still does 27 years into momhood. What a humbling and courageous decision to sit your children down (at whatever age) and apologize when need be (although my mother apologizes for things I feel are unnecessary.. Mom.. you're too hard on yourself). People make mistakes, Moms makes mistakes, but the best thing to do is own it, practice asking for forgiveness and moving forward. Beau, I felt frustrated when you weren't ready for school on time, and it wasn't okay for me to yell at you. I'm so sorry I raised my voice, I'm sure that was hurtful and scary for you. I'm going to work on calming my voice when I get frustrated. Can you forgive me?
The power your words and actions hold is amazing. The power you hold as a parent is borderline criminal. You have such an amazing opportunity to influence your children and guide them to be strong, forgiving, kind and respectful individuals. Collaborating with your children is a beautiful dance, and with an open mind and a willing heart you and your family will find all kinds of success. I encourage you to continue being the best you, you can be. Even on days when the coffee is stale and the mornings are dark.
All my love,