Id like to think that the parents who care, who truly put their children first and parent those kids with all their time, patience, energy and soul, are in the majority. Ive certainly found more and more of them recently - even on Facebook! Groups of parents who really throw themselves into being the very best they can be, and not only that but they help others too. Two groups i feel i have to mention are 'The Leaky b@@b', incredible warmth, support and wisdom - mostly about breastfeeding but really a wealth of knowledge in there, and 'Peaceful Parenting' on every aspect of raising your child as gently and peacefully and supportively as possible.( Also, from a Fathers perspective, i recommend every parent read Single Dad Laughing's blog post here http://www.danoah.com/2010/09/you-just-broke-your-child.html ).
I must admit i dont contribute to these groups very often, but i read them daily, as well as all the links to information and blog posts they put up. And ive noticed a change in myself, i think partly from the experiences ive had, having to miss out on much of the day to day things most parents take for granted, but also from having become something of a spectator.
I have always thought i was a fairly good parent. Maybe not the best, but i believed i was doing my best. Firm boundaries, strict routine, loving but authoritative parents, thats what children need so thats what i was. And to most people i think, it seemed to work. My children are (for the most part - they are still kids!) polite, respectful and well behaved. Not a bad job done, id have said.
And yet, i was always stressed. Always shouting and exhausted. I certainly didn't feel as close to my children as i wanted to be - my vision of long cuddles, building tents from the furniture and nurturing strong, independent thinking people wasn't happening. I couldnt see it but i was stuck in a rut - so determined to stay in charge i was saying no for the sake of it without even realising.
Husband, late to the game (I already had Dreamer and Manic before we met) followed my lead. Louder and perhaps a little aggressive, he adopted my parenting style. All seemed well, until i was taken out of the game.
Sitting up here, being outside listening in i started to hear myself, and Husband from the children's perspective. It made me cringe. Was that really how i spoke to them? Was it really necessary to give that child a consequence (our version of discipline) for that? How is shouting actually helping to get that point across? Oh my Lord, are our children.... afraid of us?
If you listen really carefully - that is the sound of my heart breaking as my world falls down around me. We are breaking our children.
So. Something has to change and it has to come from us. After reading and seeing so much love and such a gentler way to do things, i can see what we have to do. No more shouting. No more sarcastic comments. We need to really think about whether its worth letting them try something before cutting them off with a 'No'. We dont have to give up our routine or our boundaries, but we do need to listen, to engage with them and talk about things instead of always expecting them to blindly follow - after all, they do have brains, we want them to learn to use them and make good decisions in their lives.
Husband and i have talked. Every second we could snatch together has been spent discussing the way we parent our herd. I have researched and researched, read until i was quite sure information was falling out my ears, and ive condensed it and fed it on to Husband for him to digest.
We dont want to hurt or break our children, we thought we were doing our best and we simply didn't know any better. We honestly thought that our day filled with battles was a normal part of raising our family, and maybe there lies the problem - for most families it is normal.
We have both realised that we were damaging our family, and made the choice to change. So last Friday we sat everybody down in my room and explained as much as we thought they could take in. A fresh start, a new way of handling things, most importantly no more shouting or aggression.
We have been trying this new approach for a only a week so far, so we are still new to it. But oh, the difference we have seen in our house has astounded us, even in such a short time. The herd, as a whole seem so much calmer. Dreamers' confidence, something he always struggled with, has improved greatly, Manic is still manic - thats just how he is but he is a calmer, much less aggressive Manic. Princess has not had a tantrum once, because she has not felt hard done by once - every situation we have encountered with her we have talked her through it and she can now see why she cannot say, or do, or have what she wanted.
But the greatest change has been in Chickin. She might be only 2 but she is very clever (i mean the level of a three and a half to four year old) and understands a lot more than you might give her credit for. She has really opened up. She has stopped being quite such a Husband-limpet and has started to trust me again.
Ive come to realise, Love isnt yelling. Love is patience and warmth and always being available. Not making them fit you, but you learning with them and bending yourself to allow them to grow. Maybe easier to say in the very beginning when we've not yet hit any hurdles. But it feels so much more natural, so much more what i had always dreamed my family would be. I looked, the night before last, at my bed - filled with sleeping children (Husband was in Chickens bed to make room for them all!) and i felt at home.
Most of all this gentler way of parenting, it just feels right.