All Grown-Ups Were Children
"All grown-ups were children-although few of them remember it." - Antoine De Saint-Exupéry
I start this blog post off with a quote from the author of Le Petit Prince because of the author's innate ability to identify with a child. The Little Prince is a beautifully written book about a little boy who wanders from planet to planet meeting different grown-ups and eventually making an everlasting friend on our planet Earth. As the reader, you have the chance to identify with your previous life as a child and understand, as an adult, the reflections of a child. I have read this book to Liam and now I am reading it again to Scarlett. Each nap time and bedtime the hubby and I sit down by the bed with our children and read to them until they fall asleep. They each get two picture books and we get to pick a longer book to finish. I know that both of my children will not remember this story later when they get to read it themselves, but as a parent I feel this book is important for me because it gives me the opportunity to sit back and try, as the grown-up, to put myself in the shoes of my children.
I have been struggling lately with my children. Their constant temper tantrums, their inability to listen and cooperate with me.... it is a struggle. I've tried everything. And I find that some things work, like the warning system and being consistent with my discipline, but sometimes, those just don't seem to work either. Me being at home with them 24/7 has started to wear on me. Now that I am writing about this, I know that this is something that all parents go through. Something that is easier for some and much more difficult for others. And then I think of those who may not go through these battles and, to be honest, I hate you. Parenting is, by far, the HARDEST thing I have ever done in my life. I am constantly reevaluating myself and my parental ways. I naturally struggle, every day, with being a compassionate, honest, patient and caring human being. Then trying to teach my children the same morals makes it even more difficult.
Then, I put myself in my child's shoes. What do they see? What do they hear? How would they react? Why would they say that? It's easy as a parent to say, "Don't rip up that book! Why did you do that?" Or, "Please stop coloring on the walls! Where on earth did you get that pen?!" Again, now that I type this and think about it, why not see what happens when I put a pen to the wall? I (as a child) have never done it before. Does it really write EVERYWHERE? They are testing their boundaries and identifying what is right and what is wrong. The hard part about being a parent is, allowing the child to make those observations, and not reacting to them, but rather guiding them in the right direction.
So, after a very emotional and dramatic melt down on my part, I decided to read a book called How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. At first I thought this was going to be weird. And, in a way it is weird. It's about practicing HOW you talk to your children and HOW to listen to them. I thought I was doing a great job at talking and listening. And, I found that I wasn't doing to bad. But once I started practicing the concepts of the book, I realized that sometimes I was just being mean when talking to them. I obviously wasn't doing it on purpose, but I WAS saying things that were hurtful rather than helpful. I felt, and still feel, awful. But, the more I practice the techniques offered in the book, the easier things are getting. At first, the kids weren't really taking to my new approach of listening/talking. I noticed that Liam noticed when I used phrases that I normally wouldn't say - but he's getting use to it now.
So, what is this book teaching me? The biggest thing I have taken away from the book is how to engage the child's cooperation. There are five approaches one could use when dealing with a situation:
- Describe what you see, or describe the problem. (There are toys on the stairs.)
- Give information. (Books are for reading, not to tear apart.)
- Say it with a word. (Plate.)
- Describe what you feel. (I do not like stepping on toys.)
- Write a note. (Please put toys away when you are finished playing with them.)
I don't want to go into each of these in detail, buy the book if you are interested, it's less than $10. But, I will say, I have used each of these approaches. They do not all work all of the time in all situations, but now that I am practicing them more, I am beginning to understand which approach is best to use in each situation. For instance, my children were notorious for dumping out their bins of toys and not playing with a single item that was dumped out (and not wanting to pick them up). I tried calmly talking to them. I tried raising my voice. I even took away the toys that were dumped out. Finally, I wrote them a note. And, even though neither of them can read, they sat down with me and I read them the note. They listened to every word that was written and then carried that note around for the rest of the day repeating what was written. Since then, the dumping incidents are few and far between and they pick every piece up before I get a chance to say something. It was that easy. It was beautiful.
I could rant on and on and on and on.... about this subject. It is my full time job after all. But, I won't. I know that this is a phase, and like all phases, this too shall pass. I understand that they are children. I don't want to forget that I too was once a child and because of that I want to make these phases pass as effortlessly as possible. It is important to understand that even though I am struggling with this phase, in the end I will be a better person because of it. At least I hope. And, for my children, I am sure that I am screwing up somehow, I just hope that they know that I, in all honesty, did my best.