Parents Are Humans, Too!

This week’s enlightening blog post comes from Parent Education Director, Dara Newman:

It’s Not Always Easy! Parents Are Humans, Too!

Even though as parents we often know what to do, we sometimes cannot pull it off. I am a parent educator and a parent. I help other parents figure out how they want to parent. We look at both short-term and long-term parenting goals as well as tools and strategies to help parent how we want. For instance, we want our children to be able to problem-solve, communicate clearly, self-regulate, be self-disciplined, and be compassionate. In the short-term, we want harmony in the house and our children to cooperate. We know that children learn by our behavior, so we model “good” behavior. We treat them with loving kindness and firm boundaries. We treat them with respect–they treat us with respect. We help them–they cooperate with us. That sounds so easy!

Unfortunately, it does not work like that!

Why not? Because parenting is a process; parenting is not efficient. We want one thing, but our children want something else. Their developmental stage and temperament will influence our interactions. Our temperament, past history, beliefs, and self-regulating ability will also influence our interaction. It takes two to have an interaction. We are the adults and we are supposed to be modeling and teaching skills. But…we are also human. We make mistakes. We have “good,” “bad” and in-between behaviors; we have positive and negative emotions. Just like them.

This morning I was late for work: I had to make arrangements to fly to care for an ill relative and to get my children ready to have fun at a lake for the weekend. I was running around with a cluttered brain, and an elevated heart rate, when I asked one of my children, who was lying in bed using electronics, for help. The response was a fully uncooperative, “no.” I channeled my inner calm and said something like, “I know you are engaged in your game and it is hard to stop in the middle, so you can have five more minutes to finish that up.” Five minutes later, after my stellar parenting, modeling respect and clear communication, I returned. Unfortunately, our next interaction did not work out too well. After another reluctant response from my child, my positive modeling, along with my short-term and long-term parenting goals, went out the door: I let my child know what and how much I was doing for them and how ungrateful and….(There was no respect or clear communication in that interaction: just put-downs.)

What happened? My emotions took over. I did not pause before responding to her/his “self-centered” refusal. I stewed, ruminating on my thoughts and building up my case of what an unappreciative child I had. I am not saying that expressing these thoughts are wrong; however, I am saying I needed to calm down and think before saying what I needed to say. Because all I did was make things worse—tears and bad feelings from both parties. I made the child feel like a “bad” person and I made myself, as the one modeling expected behavior, feel like a “bad” parent. Did I tell you I know how I want to parent and have tools to do that? Guess I’ll apologize and try again tomorrow.

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