What strategies do you have in your parenting tool box?
This was the question that welcomed me and my fellow Better Me PH moms during our latest session that’s about attachment parenting. Tine Rodriguez, a Clinician for Family Therapy who is now based in Canada discussed about attachment parenting and how parenting through connection can help us better raise our kids.
It took me more than a few minutes to answer her question. In my mind, I feel I was doing a good job at parenting my kids–don’t we all feel the same?–’coz as much as possible I try to give balance, be strict when needed and be cool on most days. But sometimes I find myself doing a short cut when it comes to parenting. When I ask my kids to comply immediately mostly because we’re pressed for time, naturally they would either A: do it more slowly or B: ask first why and then decide to do it later. Instinctively, I would just tell them to just do it because I said so. Which all the more they would react by choosing either A or B.
Funny though because this is one parenting trait that I dislike. You know adults, particularly parents telling you to do things just because they said so. I think Generation X & Y mostly grew up with parents who show how authoritative they can be rather than how of a friend they can be to their kids. Well, at least this is how my relationship with my parents was when I was growing up. Even before I became a mom, I promise myself that I would build a lasting & loving relationship with my kids because it’s the only thing I know I can give them until they’re old and even when I’m gone but lately I find myself doing things which hinder me to keep my promise.
Listening to Tine give an overview of what attachment parenting is made me think of my own ways of parenting my kids. All I can say is that I truly have so much more to learn! Thankfully I was enlightened that morning on what attachment parenting is all about. To be honest, I’ve always thought that it is all about cuddling and “babying” your child until you see fit that they’re ready to immerse from their shell. Obviously, I was wrong. So I’m sharing a few things I’ve learned that morning. I won’t elaborate and discuss much, rather I’ll be highlighting things that I find very relevant for me and hopefully would also be helpful for you.
Attachment theory is seeing beyond the behavior.
As a parent, sometimes I tend not to look beyond the behavior. My son Juro is very emotional and the way he express himself is always full of feelings. So we’re pretty used to him being overly excited or overly sad and mad. But there are just some days that I cannot see beyond his behavior. That I’m too busy to even think about the reason and would directly pacify him instead. Thankful to Tine for reminding me to see beyond the behavior and now I try, (operative word: TRY) as in really try to be more consistent when it comes to this.
Ordered my copy of this for my Kindle! Did you know the frontal cortex doesn’t stop developing until the age of 21? Yep! I learned this from Tine during our session. The frontal cortex is responsible for carrying out higher mental process such as thinking and decision-making. It is also where our personality is formed and is also responsible in letting us speak fluently and meaningfully. source
Our kids don’t get to fully comprehend things and don’t think the way we adults think, partly because their frontal cortex isn’t fully developed yet. Understanding this makes me realize all the times I’ve been frustrated at them are nothing but senseless waste of energy because they’re kids and they’re still learning. And as a parent, it is my job to help them learn. I wanna know more about how I can help my children when it comes to their struggles and how I can understand them better.
Consistency is key.
I fail at being consistent with my kids. This is one thing that I am aware of yet find it very hard to correct. On days when my schedule doesn’t fall into place, I’ve not yet had my cup of coffee, I am overwhelmed with the things I need to do, and on days when I’m PMSing, I cannot be consistent try as I may, I just cannot. But consistency is key and if I don’t do something about it, I will never be able to follow through with what I want to achieve and that is to build a strong connection with my kids.
We are hardwired for connection.
I am not an expressive kind of person. I grew up writing on my journals where I secretly put what I feel. My parents & I don’t talk about our feelings openly as well as with my siblings. So you can say I’m an introvert–I am painfully shy and I know how challenging it can be to have to talk to people most of the time, I guess this is just my personality. This is why I still get nervous talking to a large crowd. Though I am shy, oftentimes I like connecting with people by saying something funny to start a conversation. Though it is not convenient, I find it pretty effective so keri na din! Realizing this, I try applying it to my kids. I find that they open up to me more when I’m being silly or would act as if I’m the same age as they are. This is our way of connecting with each other and now that I figured it out, all I need to do is make it stronger.
Easy na lang di ba? Well, not really because just like any person, my kids also have their bad days and sometimes I also have my bad days and when I think about how I want to be treated during those bad days, I smile because I realize how simple it is that I want–I just want to be comforted and to be understood. It’s not only us adults who want this but it also applies to kids as well. Easy as it may seem, there’s an effective approach in doing this for kids–regulate, relate and reason.
First things first, the child needs comfort. I notice with lil’ Mr. JG when he’s mad he would lash out. Usually our short cut way of dealing with his lashing out is to tell him to stop crying. But doing so only made him cry more harder. The only way for me to get to him is to comfort him–usually hugging him and telling him that it’s okay to cry and to acknowledge what he is feeling. At first he would go on and on and on but whenever I regulate his feelings by acknowledging it (see how we’ve created a healthy pattern?) the intensity of his feelings would simmer down.
Next is to relate. After he feels assured that I am comforting him, he would normally calm down after a few minutes. This is my window of opportunity to ask him what happened which he usually answers with sentiments. In order for him to calm down even more, I would tell a story of how I would feel if I were in his shoe. I start of by saying “You know when I was young like you…” I know that relating to him always gives him a reassuring sense of connection because one time he even asked me if I also like to play outside when I was younger like he does now. The very fact that he knows I also have gone through that feeling is enough to calm him down.
My three-year old son is like any other kid who resort to emotions as a form of expressing themselves. When he’s happy he laughs and smiles like crazy, when he’s sad and mad he would cry and cry and be angry. My lil’ Ms. JG would often call her baby brother as Anger (from the movie Inside Out) because he tends to get angry if he doesn’t immediately get what he wants or if the situation isn’t in favor to him. He’s the kind of kid who doesn’t just listen when an adult would say NO to him. He doesn’t get the reason behind it. This we’ve learned a few months ago. In order to make him understand, we have to reason with him. Explain to him why always results to a better ending than just saying no. Also giving him options always works far more better than saying ‘maybe next time’.
Know that while this is proven effective for us, it’s not always the technique we do to communicate with our kids. Because we’re not consistent nga (gosh, challenging talaga to e) that we have different results when it comes to communicating and connecting with our child. There are times when lil’ Mr. JG would even remind me to use my words when I’m frustrated or mad. All the more I am reminded to be consistent. Consistency is key talaga e! We’re really working our way to it, so putting it out here as a reminder for me to aim for consistency and strong connection with my kids.
I’ve learned that consistency will lead me to have better connection with my kids. Connections make things familiar and patterns make familiarity. My goal is to create healthy patterns, patterns that will let them know that their family (particularly me) is a safe place for them to fail and fall. That no matter what they do, I am there for them. That whenever possible I will follow my children’s needs and whenever necessary, I will take charge. Though this is another thing that I hope I can easily decipher, I’ll save this for another post.
Awareness to your own consistency and connection with your child is a good way to gauge how you are as parent to your children. Working your way towards having that consistency and connection is a step to attachment parenting. I for one is still in the process of trying to be consistency and each and every day, I hope for enduring influence that does not involve immediate compliance–spanking and shouting. Doing motherly things such as cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry and preparing the kids for school are really easy. What I’m really keen on being better is to be present with and for my kids. To really connect with them and be there for them and I’m grateful that Tine enlightened me regarding attachment parenting. It’s simplicity and ways make really good sense and I’ve come to understand that now more than ever.
Thank you Kris of OC Mom Manila for connecting me with Tine and for arranging the session. Follow Better Me for stories and tips about motherhood, family and one’s self.
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