Written by guest blogger Ruby Shelton
Growing up, I knew the kind of mother I wanted to be. I was going to be just like Mary Poppins. Kind, but firm (and fairly pretty). Always smiling and ready to whisk my little ones off on a new adventure with a song to sing along the way.
Honestly, sometimes reality gets in the way, and my sassy girls make it hard for me to be the mom I picture myself as. I love the quote, "There is no way to be a perfect parent, but a million ways to be a good one." Every time you choose to respond with love to your children, you are being a good parent. There is no perfect parent, spouse, or child, but if we all strive to choose love in our daily interactions, we can have happy homes.
I have been in the education/child care field for almost half my life. Studying Child Development in college and teaching at the child care center on campus helped create the foundation for who I am as a caregiver and mother. The biggest lesson I learned was about treating children with empathy instead of anger, which is not a philosophy I grew up with. I was raised under the idea that children were to be seen and not heard, never allowed to express disappointment or frustration. I am now raising my children with a more compassionate perspective. When there is an issue and my child is having a meltdown I try to relate: Is she tired? Hangry? Overwhelmed? Feeling ignored? I know that I can't always think clearly when I have an empty stomach or have just sat in traffic for two hours.
But, I also regulate either immediately or later once she is back to her normal self. While it's important that she feels her emotions are validated, it's also important that she develops skills to manage those emotions and learns what are appropriate responses to her frustration. She has to look to me to learn how to do that, so I have to be sure I model the right behaviors! That means no yelling when someone cuts me off in traffic. Not pouting when I didn't win anything from some giveaway. Speaking to my husband the way I want my child to speak to her peers & siblings. They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree so I can only expect from her what I put out.
Many go to college for 4+ years to learn the skills needed to work in their chosen field. I feel children should be given at least the same amount of time to learn the skills to manage their feelings and reactions. My oldest is four now, and I expect the same of her as I do of myself: to respond with kindness always. I am certainly not perfect and don't always do so, and she isn't either. So I allow her the same grace I hope others give me when I am not at my best.
Choosing this gentle-attachment style for parenting has not been an easy choice. It isn't the most popular parenting style, but I've never been on the popular side of life anyway. Growing up I was always just one of two or three African-American students in my classes. I didn't ever do what "everybody else" was doing. Now, within my group of friends that I've known since high school, I am one of only a few who practice drug-free birth, bed-sharing/co-sleeping, breastfeeding, child-led weaning, babywearing, gentle discipline, limited screen time, etc.
It's difficult to be "that one parent" who is doing things differently from everyone else, not only your peers but especially your own parents. There can be a lot of pushback from people assuming that you think your way is better. However, in my mind, at least, that isn't the case.
I went to a conference once and heard a speaker say, "You are the right parent for the child you have." No matter what way you choose to parent, as long as you are doing it out of love, I believe that your child will grow up into the person they are meant to be.
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