To say that I have a particularly hard to love child would feel like an understatement, would feel like I am selling the stress of parenting, consistently correcting, or even just doting on one of my sons … short.
One of my boys, Lord bless his heart, seems to embody every single characteristic that sets me off, that sends this tired momma into a tizzy of frustration and anger which usually results in a screaming match, idle threats and culminates in some harsh words followed by a slammed door as I slump into a pile of failure.
All too often I find myself feeling disrespected by this particular child, my pride and ego as a mother, as an adult, as a stinkin’ human being is so easily offended by the independence of a four year old that I wind up dreading the quiet times in our home, or the times when I ask said little man for assistance.
It’s gone on for years. He’s been stubborn and often the outlet for my pent up frustration. He is hard to love, strong willed, and a Botton pusher. Of that I am sure … or I was sure …
In reality, I have a particularly hard to love self.
Personal development, reading every single parenting book, self help article or motherhood blog post, is great … if you are willing to reflect and apply what you are consuming. If you are willing to do the hard work of understanding what it is that makes YOU, as a mother, so irritated or frustrated, short-tempered or resentful.
Lately, I have been devouring personal development alongside my morning devotional time, I have whipped through books like Unfu*k Yourself and Girl Wash Your Face, but – to me – those are easy self evaluations and pertain to something that I am *typically* good at. They are business related, I can do business …
What’s been harder, what is taking more time, is reading through The 5 Love Languages of Children, by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell.
Not because it is less engaging or any less compelling, but because it requires me to think about the approach I have been taking to loving my children, to correcting them, and HOW that is impacting the way they respond to even the most simple of instruction … like go to sleep on quiet time.
Here’s the thing that has been sticking with me as I peruse the pages, as I underline and do the tiniest bit of self-examination … track your progress.
I’ll be honest with you, when I first read that it is recommended that parents keep a journal of their child’s behaviour, of the complements they can give and on what strategies they have employed (as well as whether they are effective or noticed) … I thought it was absurd. I mean, REALLY, my children are no science experiments to be documented and tested.
But the notion of tracking the progress, the process and the product of the love languages and MY own effort just couldn’t be shaken. I came back to it again and again as I thought about how frustrating my boys are, as I tallied up the failures and the times I raised my voice or hissed at them through clenched teeth. The more I thought about it the more uncomfortable I became … you can’t change what you don’t track, you can manage what you don’t measure … there will be no growth if I am not keenly aware of what we are doing, what we have tried, what is ACTUALLY failing and what I am falling back on.
Journalling my experiences, what I am trying and how it is working is not about studying my children like they are some sort of weird lab rat being subject to the latest notion of positive or negative reinforcement, it isn’t about documenting the treats and punishments I dole out. It’s about learning MY own habits and responses and being able to look at the results as an unbiased third party. To be able to step back from the heat of the moment, from the frustration and the overwhelm, to access what THEY need to thrive. To understand if their “bad behaviour”, their hard to love attitude is coming from a place of defiance or desperation.
And so, because I love stationary and have about 4 journals that are fresh *like brand spankin’ new … I have NO idea why I keep buying more*, I figure that I should invest my all into this part of my mom journey. In identifying what works and what doesn’t in my home, to study my children so that I can better serve them, and to start putting my ego aside, laying down my pride and coming at this parenting thing from a place of humble service.
So, here it goes, ANOTHER thing I will be working on this new year (and sharing with you), is the refining of my parenting styles and going from academic consumption of information, theory and “best practice”, to being an active student … applying the lessons and refining my skills as a mother.
This year *as a new post will elaborate on* is the year of growth and refinement, of addressing my blind spots and finding a rhythm that helps our family to thrive.
Understanding, tracking, and acknowledging the areas of improvement is important and, while it may feel uncomfortable and a bit science lab-y, I KNOW that it will help us to blossom in the coming year.
And so I ask, what areas are you hoping to refine this year? How do you intend to grow? Are you willing to track your progress, your efforts and your end result so that you can make changes along the way … so that you aren’t blindly attempting things and relying on your default settings to take you through another year?