Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Get Your Zen On, Kari

Lately we've had a series of mornings that have not been smooth sailing.  Inevitably, a distraught child leads to morning tasks taking more time than usual and the morning becoming rushed, which is not my favorite thing.  It takes everything in me to not lose my temper and to instead try to meet the crying, flailing child where they are...I know you are frustrated...I can see you are very upset...I'm sorry you missed out on your treat/TV time/ game, but when you don't listen and follow directions, you get a consequence.

In the middle of this morning's meltdown, I had the thought that one of the reasons parenting is the hardest jobs around is because if you are never really done with it.  Sure, once your kids are out of bottles and diapers, you don't need to revisit teaching them how to feed themselves or go to the bathroom in the toilet, but it's not like you are ever really "done" teaching kids how to be respectful, kind, and considerate.

And you're also never really done having to follow through when the boundaries and rules you put in place are not followed (until of course, they don't live in your house anymore).  Oh, it certainly would be easier to never have to give consequences or hold your child accountable.  But I'm also convinced that though giving in might make the current moment a lot more enjoyable, it will make things even more difficult down the road.

At least that's what I tell myself when I'm listening to a child wail or whine all the way to preschool about how rude and unfair I am being by not giving her what she wants.  Trust me, it takes a lot of self-control to not respond when you hear, "Mommy, you're not listening.  I'm going to give you a consequence!" from the backseat.

Which is where the phrase, "Get your Zen on, Kari," comes in.  I can honestly say that since having children, I have become more patient, but it is still not my greatest gift.  I can usually hold myself together for a given period of time, but then, once all my best attempts to calm and cajole and guide have proven futile, a less patient version of parenting results and I raise my voice. 

When this happens, I can assure you it does not aid in producing the desired results but only makes me feel crummier.  Besides, raising their voice and being crabby are two of the things I don't want my kids to do, so when I model that behavior I am being really counterproductive.  I guess the bright side is that it does give me an opportunity to model how to apologize.

What I'm trying to take on as my new mode is something like this: After soothing and hugging have proven ineffective, I tell the distraught child what I need them to do, giving them a chance to self-regulate.  I then go about what I need to do, trying to not let their disgruntled behavior bother me.

During this time, I refuse to listen to any lies in my head such as "You're not a good mom," "I'm failing as a parent," or "You're not giving your child what she/he needs." Because deep down, I know that the thing my child needs most is for me to set boundaries and follow through with consequences so they know they can trust me and that they are secure and safe.

Then, if said behavior has still not stopped, and the latest possible moment to walk out the door has arrived, I gather up the kid/kids and load them into the car, mustering up Wonder Woman strength if necessary, but while not saying a thing.  It's this ignoring of the lingering crying, fussing, whining, and martyr-like comments ("Then I'm never going to listen to you again!  You never let me do what I want"..." that is usually the hardest but that also breaks the cycle. 

Thomas and I have been blessed with two independent, persistent, and passionate kids, qualities that I know will be to their advantage in many ways down the road.  But in the middle of a meltdown, these qualities usually result in said meltdown lasting longer than it might otherwise.  So sometimes I need to ignore certain behavior for quite awhile and at other times I sigh, and say, "For goodness' sakes!"

But since the middle of craziness is usually not the best time to try to explain or discuss or instruct, I've found that getting my Zen on is what works the best.  It helps me not give attention to the very behavior I want to change (after all, what gets attention gets repeated).

And getting my Zen on also helps to keep me from getting so wrapped up in what is not going well that it affects the rest of my day.  That way, when the kids are ready to snap out of whatever it is that was bothering them, I am ready to join them, and to be there for them in a non-anxious, non-irritated state of mind.

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