I never wanted to be a punitive parent.
When I found out I was pregnant the first time, friends and family kept telling me that I would be great at parenting. I was extremely nurturing. But I worried I was set too far to that extreme. I wondered how I would manage when it came to discipline, and that had never been a strong point for me.
As my daughter transformed from a baby into a toddler, I struggled to set boundaries. She was relentless!
Bedtime was the worst. I did not want to leave her to cry, but letting her take the lead was not working. We had many stressful, tearful nights that ended with me wrestling her into her pajamas way too late when both of us were overwhelmed and exhausted. How could I be a peaceful parent when my daughter’s spiritedness was driving me over the edge?
I stumbled upon RIE (Resources for Infant Educators) through Janet Lansbury’s blog, and I found her ideas for respectful discipline to be what I needed exactly.
I learned that it was okay to set limits earlier, before I got to the point of losing my patience. I learned that I could help her work through being upset when I couldn’t let her have her way, and I grew to be able to maintain firm boundaries, gently. Three years in and I have yet to punish her, and I have been able to set off on the same track with her baby sister.
But in our society, the idea that kids need to be broken down and reined in still seems so prominent. And even when things are going well, it is easy to have doubts as a parent who is trying something different than the status quo. I am not always sure of myself, and I still worry sometimes about what other parents must think of a home without punishment.
So before you go thinking that I let my kids run wild, you should know that I ground them all the time.
I “ground” my children by providing an anchor with my calm presence as the storm rages inside of them. By communicating clearly and honestly, giving them words to describe their frustrations and letting them know that they are seen, heard and understood.
I ground my kids, not by giving in to their every desire, but by treating them with compassion and dignity when I do deny their requests, and they cannot handle defeat with grace.
I ground my kids by modeling honesty, by apologizing when I have done wrong and by owning up to my mistakes. I admit to the deeper feelings behind my behavior so that they can build a foundation for a deeper understanding of themselves. And they are learning that fear and pain are what cause people to lash out. They will learn to make their judgement of others with empathy, and interact accordingly.
I ground my kids by giving them my undivided attention (when I can) and listening when they have something they want to express. I can gain insights on their triggers and work to prevent them whenever possible.
I let them off the hook by having realistic expectations of their maturity. I ground them by reminding them of all the ways that they can and do act bravely, patiently, kindly. I ground my kids by letting them know that their moments of defiance, anger and sadness do not define who they are. So they can build a foundation of self-esteem and emotional resiliency.
I ground my kids by treating them as I would like to be treated—by a caregiver who sometimes has to deny wants to supply needs.
I am teaching my children to ground themselves every day in many ways. Not by taking away their toys or sending them away. I ground them in my stillness, which I work hard to maintain every single day. We set the example for them to follow, and we can show them what it looks like to disagree respectfully, to teach with compassion and to err and recover with humility and poise.
We set the foundation for their confidence and their view of the world. We can make a safe space for them to blossom, and help them to hone the skills they will need to move along on their own.
How have you grounded your children today?
Author: Author Alura Henault
Apprentice Editor: Camerina Schwartz / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Adrianna Calvo at Pexels