How My Parenting Philosophy Has Changed Since Having Kids
I have 3 siblings, 2 of which are younger than me. I was always obsessed with babies, much like my youngest daughter. I began babysitting when I was 11 years old, then became a nanny for 4 amazing girls, and eventually had my own 2 children.
Given my experience as a peds nurse and nanny, I figured I knew it all when it came to parenting... but boy was I mistaken. (Seasoned moms- it's okay to laugh with me on this...I know I'm not the only one!)
While my experiences helped me gain some serious skill in managing multiple humans a time, I was not prepared for the dynamics that would change when those humans belonged to me.
I was the person who would say in my head "I would never do x with my child..." (insert more laughter here.) No one really told me that parenting is SUPER easy until you have your own kids, lol.
The books I read were geared towards teaching children manners and how to comply at the first command. None of them really explained how we are wired, the benefits of attachment based parenting, how to nurture their brains and their bodies. So as a new mom, I really had no clue what I was doing- just that I believed if I followed the protocols, I'd have a perfect kid by the end of the day (I may or may not have been a little selfish.)
The one and ONLY time I ever spanked my oldest who had undiagnosed sensory issues, it sent her into fight or flight for over 45 minutes.
What do I mean by that? I meant she turned bright red and screamed, kicked, wailed and thrashed for 45 minutes. By the end, I was crying and she had passed out on the couch. Now I understand that the way her nervous system was wired- that one little spank was like pouring gasoline on a fire- it was sensory input she couldn't handle.
At the time, I didn't understand this. I got advice from people that told me to continue spanking because her response was "rebellious". Now, that may have been the case for their child- but for my child, this was neurological.
My one size fits all approach to parenting wasn't working. It was leaving both my child and myself utterly exhausted and exasperated as I expected her to obey the first time without question, stop interrupting, have great manners, without any of the actual skills to do so.
What this exposed in me was my desire to have an instant positive response from my child in order to avoid my own internal discomfort.
I was more interested in her doing what I said that I was about her learning. I'm not ashamed to write that because I took that information about myself and I grew from it.
Many times, when behavior is going awry, when the witching hour has hit and everyone is going bonkers, when I'm making demands and no one is listening, I have to take a step back and examine my heart- what is my motivation right now? Am I being triggered? Am I actually creating an environment where my child can learn, trust, respect and obey me? Or do I just need peace? Am I looking to my external environment to give me a sense of peace that really can only come from the inside? These are all questions I have learned to ask myself in the midst of tough moments.
As part of my own healing from past trauma and understanding my own childhood experiences, I began to read books that talked about brain development, attachment theory, nurtured parenting and understanding how our own experiences being parented profoundly impact how we parent our own children.
My philosophy began to change from one that was self-serving to one that nurtures growth.
What do I mean by self serving?
It meant that I didn't care WHY she was doing something, I cared THAT she was doing it, and I wasn't thinking as a teacher who wanted to come up with solutions, but a task master who just wanted her to comply.
I wasn't connected to myself and my own needs and triggers, and I wasn't connected to her in a meaningful way, and as her behavior progressively got worse no matter what parenting tools we threw around, the more exasperated we all became.
It wasn't until we finally got the diagnosis of PANDAS that I began to realize that I wasn't a failure as a parent because she couldn't follow instructions. It wasn't because I wasn't firm enough or gave too many choices, or didn't have enough structure to our lives. It was simply a manifestation of underlying illness. She couldn't help it any more than she could help the color of her eyes or hair.
Understanding that changed my approach to parenting entirely.
I began to see from her perspective. I had to almost completely drop the notion that I could get this kid to obey me. (I'm going to talk more about obedience from a Biblical perspective in a different post).
My one and only goal in the middle of a meltdown is to make her feel safe, understood and not alone. That's it. Once we ride that wave together, she is able to follow directions, make amends or do whatever else needs to happen.
I began to look at her in those moments and say "What does she need right now? What is her behavior telling me?" instead of "How can I get her to do what I want/need in this moment? How can I regain control?"
I had to change my view to "what is my endgame?" Do I want her to feel safe, loved and understood or do I just want to win this argument for the sake of feeling in control for a fleeting moment?
I'm not perfect, as you can clearly see above. But we are making progress. I look back and recognize that had I not done allllll the years of inner healing work, going to therapy, understanding my own experiences being parented and how that impacted me, forgiving those who harmed me, developing distress tolerance- I would not be capable of being the mother that my non-neurotypical child needs me to be. And for that, I have extreme gratitude.
How about you? What is your parenting philosophy?
Does it work for you?
What have you learned over the years of parenting?
To your wellness,