By Sara Regan
Being the parent requires us to have loads of self control. Where-as the child gets away with having little self control – and we are responsible for helping to teach them “how” to learn and practice it. This task is NOT easy and requires more patience than I have most days. Not only do we need to regulate ourselves and emotions, but help our children to do the same.
Children are not born with socialization or rules. We as their parents are responsible to teach them.
Children do not know “when” or “how” to express their emotions and feelings. (Oftentimes I struggle with this too if I am being honest and transparent). Early childhood is the best time to begin teaching this – though right now with a 2.5yr old boy I am ready to run the opposite way! Their little brain is ready to learn, but that also means it is immature and that is why they call these early stages the “terrible twos”. Our kids test us in every way possible, and I mean EVERY WAY!
It will take time until we start to see our efforts pay off so sticking with it is key.
Depending on age, temperament, and what’s going on in their life our kids are not yet well-equipped to handle disappointment, frustration, to be able to calm down, to focus on a goal, evaluate options or make well-thought-out decisions. But then how well-equipped are we as parents? What have we done in our lives before that baby/child came to prepare ourselves to handle a being who has little (or no) self-control? Most of us have most likely not done much.
Maybe that is one reason why people say you can never really prepare yourself for having a child – that before becoming a parent you have no idea what it is like to be fully responsible for someone else, to always be thinking of them, and to be putting their needs before your own. ALL THE TIME! Our childhood and past experiences can help in some ways to prepare us, some more than others.
As our children grow we will grow also, only our growth will be on the inside.
We talk a lot about the importance of teaching kids self-regulation, but what about our own? How do we develop these skills? I for one found seeing a counselor both individually and with my husband has really benefited me, and us as parents and spouses. Our children – or mine at least – seem to know exactly how to push my buttons. They know how to tap into my weak spots and put me over the edge daily. So, the best thing we can do is be aware when it is happening, what our triggers are, and then learn how to deal with it by being mindful. Sounds easy right? LOL
A few things to try are as follows:
Refrain from expectations and simply observe and be present.
Sometimes we can put expectations on our children that aren’t fair or doable. They are constantly growing, learning and changing and we need to remember that. For example my 2.5 yr old is a smart boy and very verbal, but he is a 2 year old and with that comes excessive emotions, impulsiveness, the need to act out and to try to control, over excitement and even manipulation to get what he wants. So the key here is when he acts out, instead of an immediate response I need to simply observe him. Empathy is HUGE here, and it takes practice to learn to do this, trust me I am still practicing every day!
Keep your emotions separate from theirs – so just because they might be having a bad day or a melt down, you don’t need to. You are in control of you! I find this is beneficial to practice with anyone I am around, not just kids! Planning ahead is a biggie here in my opinion. If I know what I am going to do if my child acts a certain way – I can take immediate action and not go on impulse. It also allows for others, such as a spouse or babysitter to also have the same rules or discipline I do.
Self-Care. Taking care of ourselves is huge mamas! I wrote about it before and you will see it again I promise. We need to make sure we are rested, energized, confident, positive and feeling grounded to take on each day. Again my counselor truly helped me here…
We need to take breaks when needed, or even if they aren’t; (because they always are right)? Staying present in the moment helps to. Finding joy in the small things, and being grateful for what we do have can keep us feeling good, despite the current circumstances.
Knowing what to do when we “lose it” is a great idea too because trust me – this WILL happen.
Losing it is part of it, part of life, part of relationships. Your kids should witness this and they will. So, give yourself some grace and use it as an opportunity to model self-regulation for your kids: Own it, Apologize, and Identify what it is that helped you to calm down. This not only helps you better self regulate, but shows your child it is okay to make mistakes but we need to learn from them.
None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. Sometimes I think we forget that our life here is meant to be a journey, not a destination. As parents, especially mamas, we need to build each other up not judge and compare and critique one another. Help another mama out if you see them struggling or applaud them if they deserve it as well. We can make a difference, be the difference, and teach our children to do the same as we grow.