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Sunday, March 16, 2008

We Are In This TOGETHER!

When I think of parenting, I try to remember that it isn't an "Us (parents) VS. Them (children) battle. We are in this together. We have a common goal my child and I. We want to grow older, day-by-day, learning more about each other, and those we love. We want to nourish our bodies, and minds. We want to be successful in our pursuits, celebrate our accomplishments together, and learn from our mistakes. I want to lead my young child into the world knowing that I gave her as much of myself as possible, and she'll leave me with the memories of unconditional love, and admiration. We have so much to give each other along the way. It isn't about surviving her childhood. It is about LIVING and LOVING.

Recently, I wrote
a post touching on my parenting style, and why I choose to parent that way. There was fear in publishing that post, but in the end, I remembered that this is MY place to be just who I am, so I posted it. On a whole it turned out to be a blessing. I connected deeply with some of the readers, and actually lured out some lurkers (HI!). I did lose a few readers in the process, but that's okay. Some of the comments, and posts inspired by mine, opened up a topic that I think touches us all.

I don't know about YOU, but I am human. Yes.... yes, I am. Being HUMAN, means that I have needs, wants, and emotions. Sometimes these three things don't mesh. In fact, they collide. It is quite apparent that we have basic needs. Food, Water, shelter.... and SLEEP! What parent doesn't need sleep? Most of us need a good deal MORE sleep than we are currently getting. As a parent, our needs quickly become SECOND to that of the child. This is a natural process that ensures your child's basic needs are met, however, it can backfire. When my NEEDS are not getting met, I get....ummmmm...let's just say GROUCHY... with a capital G! If I am over tired, or under fed, my mood gets to be quite unpleasant. I lose patience.... and I am more likely to be short tempered. If you find this NOT to be true of yourself.... you are one lucky Human.

There are many other things that can turn our otherwise "happy go lucky" selves into Cranky McCrankersons. Maybe it is a bad day at work, PMS, a fallout with a friend or family member, or a day when just nothing seems to go right. You know those days...the one where you drop everything you pick up, you hit all the red lights, and you lock yourself out of the car. Yes.... those days.... aren’t they enough to just send you over the edge? UGH!

I find that knowing and understanding that the human characteristics that I just described not only applies to myself as the parent, but also to my child, helps ME be a better caregiver. Being aware that emotion is something so very complex, and so quickly turned helps me decide exactly how I will respond to my Sugar Bear. At all times, I need to be constantly aware of where we both stand on getting our needs met, and how THAT is affecting our moods. You see.... the common problem I have read by parents lamenting their parenting mistakes, or guilt, is based on the fact that the parent is NOT getting their needs met. A tired parent is usually NOT being the type of parent they want to be. The tired parent has a much harder time controlling their emotions.

It is clear to me that the deeper question is.... how do we ensure that we don't let our emotions get in the way of parenting the way we want to parent? I have had this conversation with a few of my closest friends. My advice has always been to strive to parent based on REASON, not EMOTION. Do what your brain says is right, NOT what your hair-trigger mood is telling you to do. You might be getting ready to reach through this screen and strangle me at this moment, but hang in there...I promise I have a point.

I feel that step one in all this goes back to my original post, and doing some thinking about what type of parent you want to be and WHY. We all need not parent the same way. I am not saying MY way is the right way. I am saying that you need to know what is in your heart, and decided to parent in that fashion. Once we know WHY.... we need to make a plan in HOW to follow through with it...and not just in the good times.... but also in the bad. This includes the times when either yours or your child's needs aren't being met, and the crankies are taking over. You need to have a plan as to how to get both you and your child through that moment without sacrificing your parenting beliefs.

One of the key steps is making a conscience effort to stay in tuned to both yours and your child's emotions. When things start going wrong, and you feel that urge to "freak out".... STOP...take a look around.... find the root of the problem. "Is it me???? Or them?" Figure out if everyone's basic needs are met. If not.... set to immediately solving that issue. My friend Lis Garrett wrote some really nice posts about tantrums, and how to prevent them. She addresses the issue of tuning into your child's needs well. I'd like to discuss when you notice the problem doesn't lie with your child.... it is indeed YOU!

Just this evening...Sugar was really starting to get on my nerves. It seemed she was using every excuse in the book to prolong her bedtime routine. I found myself getting aggravated at her. BEFORE I opened my mouth, I did some reassessing. I found that I had a sore throat, PMS and everything that goes with that, and a severe lack of sleep recently. Sugar on the other hand, was simply enjoying her nighttime snuggles, and reading with her mama. She was NOT doing anything inappropriate. She was doing something she does on a regular basis, and usually it doesn't bother me. Tonight, however, I was not in the mood for her to count the "apples up on top" on each and every page of the book. Had I not done the "STOP and find the root of the problem", I easily could have said, rather loudly, "Oh for crying out loud Sugar! Do you have to count each one! ARGHHHHH!!!" All this would have done is hurt her feelings, and made me feel guilty later. Instead, I said, "Sugar, Mama just isn't feeling so good. As much as I love listening to you count, can we not do that tonight...Please.....?" She smiled up at me and said, "poor mama! You sick, huh?" This conversation not only stopped the endless counting, it was a teachable moment about empathy for others. If Sugar had insisted on counting some more, I would have stuck to my original request, and said, "If you can not stop counting the apples on each page, mama will be done reading tonight. I'm sorry, but we can count the apples tomorrow, okay?"

Now I know that may seem like a silly example, but I wanted to use something fresh in my mind. I simply acknowledged how I was feeling, addressed her feelings as well, and used a technique to sway her in the right direction. It simply was not her fault that I wasn't feeling well. If I had been grouchy towards her, what message is that sending? Am I accepting of her doing the same to me, and others? Is it okay to be mean, nasty or something we don't want to be just because we are sick, tired.... (You fill in the blank)? As in my last post, I always like to put it in an adult perspective. If on my job, my boss came in my office to find me doing something quite typical for me to do on the job, but due to her being in a foul mood, she yelled at me, and proceeded to punish me for doing it. Even if I knew she was in a really bad mood, it wouldn't feel any less humiliating, and I certainly wouldn't feel all that much better about it if and when she came to apologize to me stating that she was just tired, and didn't really mean to yell at me.

Often, as parents we find ourselves yelling or lashing out in frustration towards our children. Through the guilt, we blame it on being tired, and emotionally wrecked. Although it is a valid reason for feeling the desire to lose control.... is it really a valid reason for doing it...especially if we are doing it over and over. Do we want to live our lives doing things that go against our own desires just because our basic needs aren't being met, and we struggle to control our emotions? It is a deep thought, huh? Are we truly prisoners to our emotions?

As parent's it should be our number one concern to raise our children in the fashion we see fit, not in the fashion our present emotional state allows. Please know I am not saying that we all must be perfect all the time.... no matter what. What I am saying, is that by focusing of our own wants, needs, and emotions it will help us be aware of our triggers, and the things that push us away from who we want to be. Knowing this.... and honoring this.... will help us work together with our children to reach our common goal. Showing your children that you validate emotions both positive and negative, will help them discover theirs, and empathize with others. Letting your child help you out of a "bad spot" will give them a sense of understanding. When all heck is breaking loose, and you just want to run screaming into the room, and send everyone to their corners, maybe if you simply got their attention and explained how you feel like you may explode, and ask them how they might help you feel better, you'd all learn something from each other.

It is time to start working on US. If WE are chronically tired, and this is feeding into the emotional roller coaster WE are on...we must find a way to address that. I know it isn't easy, but the alternative is finding ourselves many years down the line full of excuses, and a pile of guilt. WE deserve to have our basic needs met, and if we can't do it for ourselves.... we need to do it for our children.

Thank you for letting me share my thoughts on this extremely touchy subject. This writing is based on my personal desire to be the best parent I can be, and my understanding that many of you feel the same way. It isn't about lamenting the past, or dwelling on mistakes. It is about cherishing the future enough to take control of today.If you are still with me...I'll soon be discussing ideas of how to take YOUR emotion out of the discipline process. You won't want to miss it. wink wink..... Now go have a potty break...I'm sure you'll need it.

36 Live It or Love It:

Merisi said...

Good morning,
I came over from David, read your interview there. I have been here before, and I am glad you keep on blogging.
All the best,

Hanlie said...

Once again such valuable advice! Thank you!

Megan Cobb said...

These are such great, helpful posts. Keep them coming! :)

Akelamalu said...

I popped over from David's after reading your interview. Great interview by the way!

Whilst here I followed your link to your post "N is for Naughty or Nice" and just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading about your parenting style - your Sugar is a very lucky little girl! :)

Amy said...

Nice post! It was a good reminder to me. Thanks for making me think!

imac said...

Congrats on your Sunday Roast interview, very intersetin to read, just like your Blogs.
I found them to be very heart warming and tender and enlightning.
Also your photos - stright from the heart.

Sandi McBride said...

Oh Corey, your words speak volumes...your children must be very proud of your parenting skills! I would be if you were my parent.
Oh, and since I am a stranger here, you must have guessed I was sent here by David...I'm glad he did.

Autumn said...

Wonderful advice Core. I find that MY triggers are the same as Bugs triggers. I to get grouchy and snappy when I am hungry and tired or stressed.
Congrats on the interview on Davids blog. You rock!

Momo Fali said...

I, for one, need a lot more sleep than I'm getting. I just told my husband this morning, that before we had kids I used to get almost nine hours of sleep a night. I was thin, energetic, and pretty healthy. Now, nine hours is a dream. Really, six hours is a dream. I walk around exhausted ALL day, every day. I need more sleep. I also need more hours in a day.

Anonymous said...

Most excellent post, Corey! I think you brought up something critical that a lot of parents miss... children have an INCREDIBLE ability to grasp the concept of empathy from a very early age. It warms my heart to see a mommy nurturing this wonderful life skill in their child the way that you do. Hugs to you and Sugar, and I hope you're both feeling better soon.

Laura said...

I appreciate these posts so much, Corey. You have a real gift for breaking down the challenges of parenting into simple truths that make sense and hold powerful lessons in easy-to-remember packages. Do unto others...take care of yourself...such simple things, but so quickly forgotten when a stressful situation is right on top of us. Please keep these coming.

Anonymous said...

You've hit the nail on the head, Corey. As parents, we can't neglect ourselves in our quest to be a better parent for our kids. I know when I have a lot on my mind, I am short with my kids. Ocassionally, I just need to take a few hours for myself. I do wish I were getting a bit more sleep, but I realize Bridget's night nursing, though it's gone on for 2.5 years, will not last forever. One of these days, I will sleep again!

Thanks for such a great post and, btw, your blog is definitely on my "keep" list. :-)

John-Michael said...

I love You, Corey. Your willingness to invest your Self in the world that you touch makes me glad to be a small part of it. Knowing that it is never too early to learn respect for the personhood of another, or to honor them in tandem with respecting and honoring the marvel that is You, is a treasure that raises the value of the life experience of all touched by the lesson.

Cath said...

Corey - this is a great post. I read your first one and if I'd read it at the time I may have agreed whilst thinking "She must be perfect!" (in admiration) but this post balances it perfectly. You are so right. These are YOUR thoughts and feelings about what YOU do with YOUR child. Therefore perfectly valid.
It may change as you go through teenage years, but I for one take my hat off to you and try to parent as you do. I just wish I had the insight with my oldest - I was on a steep learning curve there until I started to examine WHY I did or said things. Often it was because I thought I ought to or it was how I was parented. Then I would remember how I did not like being parented like that and re examined what I was doing and changed it.
The younger one has benefited but I am older, tireder, sicker. However, after such an inspiring and honest post, you motivated me to have the most frank, open and honest discussion with the 10 year old I think he has ever had. I had lost the art of doing this (which I learned through trial and error) until I read your post.
I hold the keys to unlock the mysteries of his past, particularly regarding his father. I have NO RIGHT to deny him the honest truth and knowledge only I can give him.
I was able to do this tonight because of YOU Corey and your honest post. It came from him, but your words rang in my ears and helped me deal with it in a much more positive way, valuing his needs.
Thank you so much. You are right. None of us are perfect. I will always make mistakes. But I search the same goals as you and you reminded me of this.
Tonight, he is sleeping soundly.
Sorry this ended up so long. I'll publish before I delete because there is too much info here but I feel compelled to let you know how much good you have done. Just please do not beat yourself up or do the guilt thing when Sugar is older and perhaps you cannot achieve your goals as often. If you still strive for them then you are doing it right! And don't forget, as they get older, children have to be responsible too!

Enough now. thanks.

holly said...

corey, you can keep up this pretense as long as you want, but i know. secretly, you lock sugar in the closet for an hour a day for her own good. c'mon, admit it. go on. and now i'm going to tell you : stop it. it does her no good, it does you now good.

okay serious holly has just stepped in and kicked silly holly's butt. serious holly says "very nice thoughtful post."

silly holly says "that hurt and i still think you lock sugar in the closet."

more butt kicking.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Corey, you are a star. I have so many moments like that with my two.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the wonderful post.
Awareness of the present moment is so very important in parenting.

I loved your example of reading with your daughter. I have definitely been there!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that there were readers who felt they needed to leave over your post. Everything you said makes great sense to me. We actually have very similar parenting styles.

I also have to watch my grouchy days to try to allow M to be a toddler and impose my mood on her. Some days are more successful than others, but I keep on trying!

I think that Sugar and The Bean will be infinitely richer because of our efforts. Parent on!

Rachel said...

It's your stalker. I know, you've probably fired me by now. I'm sorry, I've been bad. Please forgive me.
The interview with David was fabulous and this was yet another awesome post.

Donetta said...

Hello, Great post girl! Well written. Thought provoking and non judgmental well done. I am enjoying the series. I trust this finds you well. I hope one day you have another child to enjoy. They are such a gift.

Carolyn said...

Love the post, and as usual, we're going through the same thing on the same day! Your thoughts are a good reminder that as parents, we must be empathetic to our children and put ourselves in their situation to ensure that we relate to them as lovingly as possible. A phrase I often use with Csilla when I want her to do something that is good for her but she doesn't want to do it (like brush her teeth or go to bed) is: "Mama is just trying to be a good mama and take good care of her baby". Csilla really seems to understand this. She understands that I want to take care of her and do what is best for her. That one statement often gets the result I'm looking for without further struggle.

Anyway, thanks again for a thoughtful post Corey!

kat said...

You lost readers over your parenting post? How weird. I always wonder why people just can't accept that not everyone is doing the same and that not everyone has the universal solution to everything.... I loved your post.

Deb said...

This is such a helpful reminder, especially lately for me when I've been run down and dragging - and a lot less patient than I usually am. It's so easy to get caught up in the mundane and get frustrated easily... I can't believe that people would actually leave over your last post - I love reading these! :)

Anonymous said...

How could ANYONE be offended by anything you ever say, Corey??? They are poorer for it, I can tell you. Your wisdom and love for Sugar shine through in all you write- love you.

Beth Cotell said...

I have a very hard time keeping emotion out of the discipline process. Looking forward to better ways of behaving!

Beth Cotell said...

I have a very hard time keeping emotion out of the discipline process. Looking forward to better ways of behaving!

Jennifer Powell said...

Hi Corey, Your post was exactly what I needed right now. I have a 6 week old son and 2 1/2 year old daughter. It has been interesting adjusting to having both kids and trying to make sure they both have enough attention. (As you can guess, my infant son wins a lot of those battles.) I've been reacting a lot to my daughter's behavior due to the triggers you mention and I feel so bad about it. Your post reminded me to get back on track. I would like to link to your post from my blog - have never done anything like that so don't know the rules / etiquette. Let me know if that is OK.

Jennifer Powell said...

Hi Corey, Your post was exactly what I needed right now. I have a 6 week old son and 2 1/2 year old daughter. It has been interesting adjusting to having both kids and trying to make sure they both have enough attention. (As you can guess, my infant son wins a lot of those battles.) I've been reacting a lot to my daughter's behavior due to the triggers you mention and I feel so bad about it. Your post reminded me to get back on track. I would like to link to your post from my blog - have never done anything like that so don't know the rules / etiquette. Let me know if that is OK.

tommie said...

Corey- Thanks for this post. Just what I needed to see today!

Mary Ann said...

Thank you for this post. What a great reminder!

Cynthia said...

First, I do have to go potty;)

Second...I love your parenting style. I actually am (sometimes) able to step back and look at the situation. It's easy to forget to look at things from their perspective. I am getting better at it...not always, but I try to be calm in the storm when it hits:)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Maude Lynn said...


Don Mills Diva said...

Great post - thanks for this Corey!

Joeprah said...

I think its always great to say things out loud or to yourself like, I love you, but I do not like or approve of your behavior. Kids rule, their actions are questionable and having a good sense of humor is key, because lets face it, kids are just dumb.. :) LOL!

CMB said...

Wow - did that hit home. I had a complete breakdown on Friday and as soon as it was over wanted to cry. I know now why it happened and it had NOTHING to do with the kids - but they paid for it. I will be tuned in for the next post and taking this one to heart.

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