I’ve been parenting since I was three years old. No, seriously. I have clear memories of my sister who was an RH baby, coming home from the hospital. The doctor told Mom not to touch her because she was too susceptible to germs. That caused my sister to cry and cry, and it broke my 3-yr-old heart. One morning Mom went in to see why the baby had stopped crying and she found me in the crib holding and soothing her.
Another powerful parenting lesson occurred when my son was 3 1/2. It had rained all week, and my older son was bored, negotiating, begging, pleading, and crying. His behavior was wearing on my last nerve as I tried to calm my fussy newborn, and then it happened.
After hours of warnings, threats, and timeouts, I decided to change the direction the day was going. I reached out to hug him, and he recoiled. He backed away from me. He was afraid of me, and I was crushed. I had replaced my beautiful child’s trust in me with fear of me.
How could this have happened?
And then it dawned on me. I, too, had memories of what it felt like to be scared of my parents, fearful of their yelling and spanking me. I knew I’d begun repeating the same parenting that my parents had used with me. I knew I HAD to change the way I was parenting. I wasn’t going to inflict that kind of emotional pain on my children.
But now I had a problem!
I had no idea how to correct behavior without yelling, punishing, or spanking. I knew there was another way because I had seen other parents’ correct behavior calmly. I just had no methods that allowed me to stop my rush to anger or my reliance on reactive corrections.
I wanted to be connected, clear, and firm at the same time. I knew kids needed boundaries; I just had no idea how to enforce the rules so my kids would learn while I remained calm.
My education introduced me to solutions, methods, words, and phrases that allowed parents to respond, not react, as they corrected their kids. I knew that all parents were looking for these solutions, and I wondered why it wasn’t readily available, so I made it my career.
Let me be very honest.
I wasn’t perfect, and neither were my kids. However, the everyday behavior that occurred when handled with love, connection, clarity, and firm boundaries allowed us to grow together versus being pulled apart by the wounds that happen when you yell and use reactive parenting