Friday, October 19, 2012
In my former, pre-mom life, I used to work in a school with children with emotional and behavioral issues. These children were all on IEPs and most were in need of basic social skills learning. (For example, lessons included: here are the steps to use to respond to positive feedback, here are the steps to giving negative feedback, here are the signs you are feeling angry, scared, etc.) Again and again, as part of an amazing staff there, we worked to help the students learn that no one could "make" you angry or make an unsafe choice. You can do nothing about another person's choice, you can only make your own choices when you respond and hope that they choose to respond to you by making better choices of your own. You are never responsible for another person's behavior, but you are responsible for all of your behavior and your reactions to others. It is a lesson that I have definitely carried into my parenting escapades.
So, here's the truth: my wonderful, beautiful son who was worn constantly, still sleeps with us, whom I have really tried to gentle parent as much as I can (I do make lots of mistakes, though, and lose my temper from time to time) is a typical three year old with behavior identical to most three year olds. My son yells, he sometimes makes dangerous choices like trying to pull down his bookshelf full of toys last Saturday because he was mad his dad was leaving to go to a football game, at a friend's house a few months ago, he got into a brief scuffle with another gentle parented 3 year old and threw wood chips at him instead of resolving their differences peaceably, last Sunday he kicked over a pumpkin instead of getting into a picture with the other grandchildren at his grandma's house, and last night, inexplicably (he seemed to be in a good mood), he approached his dinner plate as if he were going to get in his chair and eat and then threw his dinner on the ground and intentionally smeared the ketchup on the floor.
This is a good time for me to point out again. .. I am not responsible for my son's behavior. =o) However, I am responsible for making him understand that he is responsible for his choices and their consequences. I am responsible for my responses to his choices and my own behavior. That is why I try to use relationship based parenting and that is why I use tools like "the comfort corner," framing behaviors as "good/bad choice" and try to keep my relationship with my son primary . . . even when I'm feeling helpless and like this "gentle discipline" thing has failed; my child is a mess! The thought that "this isn't fair; I'm doing everything right and it isn't working" does cross my mind from time to time, but then I remember that this really isn't about him right now. It's about me and my choices and who I want to be as a mom. I don't like myself when I give into anger and yell and behave like a crazy woman. I don't respect myself when I make crazy choices like behaving petulantly toward my own three year old (as if THAT is going to be effective). Raising a child is not the same thing as "making" a product. What you and I are doing today may not have immediate, tangible results. We can only hope that by showing our children how we take responsibility for our own actions and choices, by teaching them the agency of their own actions, and by providing them with the best loving relationship we can that they will choose to be the best people they can be all on their own.
I don't think I'm a better mother than anyone else I know. In fact, I spend a lot of time worried that I'm nowhere near as good as most the other mothers I know! I'm not trying to make my son better than anyone else's child. I'm just doing the best I can and that's all I can ask of him, too.
Thanks for Reading,