Image shows two children, from behind, crossing a wooden bridge.

No I’m not Zen.

I have been learning to parent respectfully since becoming a mum four and a half years ago.

When you parent without punishments, time outs, yelling, hitting etc, you soon learn that your definitely in the minority. You’re thought of as one of “those” parents and people think your children have no discipline.

I think some people think what I do is too hard, some people say “I don’t have the patience for what you do” or they think what I do is stupid.
I think sometimes parenting respectfully sounds all zen. I’m sure if people knew it’s not, they wouldn’t be so intimidated to challenge the norms of parenting in our society and make some changes.

Maybe changes that they know in their hearts are right, but seem too hard and confusing in practice. Maybe I know this because that’s what parenting respectfully has been for me. I have followed my heart with how I parent, but it hasn’t been easy. I have needed support, read a lot on children’s development, needed to be reflective, to pick myself up after feeling like I’m not sure what I’m doing, to ask questions and seek advice.

I started with no smacking, yelling and no punishments. I believed in kindness and treating children with respect. How would I like to be treated if I was a small person with no power and someone bigger controlled everything in my life? From my food, my clothes, what I do, when I can do it, where I sleep, what happens in my life and what I’m exposed too. Sounds so zen, can you imagine me lighting a candle for a meditation with my children? That. Has never happened.

Have I yelled? Yes. Is it ok? No. I apologise and own it.
Have I smacked? Yes. Once. I smacked my then 2 year across the face because he was hitting me. It triggered in me feelings I wasn’t able to control. I lost it. Slapped him across the face. I was mortified.
My son laughed. He had never been slapped before and he laughed.
Then he sobbed because it hurt. It was hard. And his mummy hurt him.
I’m sharing this and there is a ball in my stomach. It’s fear. I’m scared to share what I just did.
It took me a long time to get over what I did.
That was a big learning curve for me.
I had much to work on.
And I still do.

There are bad day and I’m less gracious with how I handle situations. Sometimes I can get in a rut and it can be a bad day, week or even month. I’m impatient, grumpy, snappy. I yell, I am exasperated. These days or moments I try very hard to model what I would like my children to do after they have had one of those days or moments. To respond with kindness and love. Those days it’s usually me that needs kindness, to drop expectations, make things more simple and reconnect with my children.

This is the big learning. That I need to be making sure I’m looking out for what’s stressing me, because it’s  then when I’m reacting to things in a less then kind way that it all goes pear shaped. I’m always learning about to treat my children respectfully and what that means. I’m constantly challenged by things I read or see that open me up to seeing through my children’s eyes.

Seeing what is the best way to support them to being capable, loved and healthy children that grow into adults.

I’m a youth worker and work with adolescence in the homelessness sector. I know what it means to see children that are controlled, disrespected, abused, traumatised and emotionally corrupted grow up. By emotionally corrupted I mean unable to deal with their emotions in a healthy way. I’m seeing young adults that come from family violence and will continue that cycle. They don’t see bullying, shaming, emotional abuse, physical abuse or controlling others for what it’s. They see it as part of life. It is not.

Our children deserve better.
Our children’s children deserve better.

When people start seeing the link to how we treat children to the family violence in our neighbourhoods we can do something about this. So whilst it’s not zen, and you won’t have it worked out completely in a nice tidy program to “get your child to behave”. It is ok to take a step forward and try to make some changes. Our children count on it.

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