It takes courage to stop parenting automatically.
It takes courage to search out new ways to address misbehavior.
It takes courage to step over the pain you felt as a child and choose to treat your child differently.
Revisit your story, be honest about it, and make a courageous choice not to repeat the same thing with your child.
Revisiting your story can be tricky. Here’s my story so you know what I mean by tricky.
I was a child who was told I was fat, clumsy, had horrible vision, terrible hair and a big mouth. I was spanked, had my mouth washed out with soap, and was slapped across the face when I said things the adults in my life thought were inappropriate.
One day I said something that was out of line. My grandmother yelled for my mother to get the soap. My mom said, “Mom shouldn’t I talk to her first?” My grandmother said, “Talking does no good. She needs to know who the boss is! Get the soap. You do it or I will!” (My grandmother was a very sweet woman who simply knew no other way.)
That exchange between my grandmother and mom showed me that my mom was doing as she was told, not as she instinctively felt she should. I, of course had my mouth washed out with soap.
Then I had my two children. I knew I didn’t want to treat them the way I was treated as a child. I never labeled them, I never smacked them across the face, but I did give them a single swat every once in a great while, when they were really young.
One day my 31/2 yr. old son yelled at me in front of my parents. I looked at my mother as if to apologize with my eyes. She shot me a look meant to motivate me to do the right thing, whether I wanted to or not. I reached out to swat my son and he recoiled. The world seemed to slow down and freeze. I knew I had to make a choice right then and there. I could either repeat the actions that every parent in my family had used for generations, OR I could stop. In that moment I didn’t have a clue how to correct his rude behavior, but I knew I couldn’t treat my child the way I was treated as a child, not one more time. I knew in my soul I had to stop, now.
I didn’t swat him, I just went silent. I must have had a hurt look on my face because his intense, over the top attitude deflated like a balloon. We looked at each other and both began to cry. I realized he had no idea he was even capable of hurting another person’s feelings. He was crushed when he realized how upset I was. If I had yelled, screamed or swatted him, it would have switched the focus from how his words hurt me, to the pain he felt for being yelled at or swatted. His disrespectful behavior toward me was simply his mirroring of how I’d been treating him. I’d been treating him the way I’d been treated as a child. I hated the way I was treated as a child and deeply sadden by the disdain and resentment that evolved between my parents and me as a result. I didn’t want that for my children and me.
Those realizations became tricky for me. They were tricky because even though I decided to find another way to be firm and correct my children’s behavior, which worked really well, I still had to fight the automatic urges to yell, swat and punish. My motivation to overcome my automatic urges was my decision to be the advocate for who I wanted my children to become. I had to make changes so the hitting, labeling and yelling wouldn’t be passed on to another generation. I won’t lie, it was hard at times, yet totally worth it.
Be bold enough to change the way you correct behavior. Be bold and listen to the small still voice inside of you. That voice is filled with wisdom and information to help you decide how you want to parent. Be bold for your children, as well as your lifelong relationship with them, and you will reap the rewards.
I feel so strongly about what I learned and how well it worked with my children, that I created Proactive Parenting! If you want tips, sample conversations, and new methods to avoid reacting, yelling. If you want help resisting the urges to swat or consistently use timeout and punishment, that’s what Proactive Parenting is there for.
Right now we’re running our Annual 50% Back-To-School-Sale. Purchase a seminar today and let change be your bold new way of doing things this school year! (FYI: After lots of honest communication, on both sides, things are very good between my parents and me. Just thought you’d want to know! 🙂 )