I was having a really tough day. You know those days when everything seems to fall apart at the seams. When you didn’t get enough sleep, there’s no food for breakfast but the cold eggs your kid left behind and no amount of coffee will wake you up. On this rough morning, I just felt depleted.
I forgot all of my tools and instead just commanded obedience. “Get your pants on. No, we gotta get going! Come on. We can’t be late for school. Put that down!” It didn’t feel good for myself or my preschooler. On the way to preschool dropoff, I took some time for self-reflection while Zootopia played in the car.
This self-reflection led to problem-solving. How can I be solution-focused? What could I do differently in my interactions to invite cooperation instead of command it? I decided that while I couldn’t change the morning, the afternoon was in my control. I could choose to reset and try again. I decided to let go of the process of how we would get to nap and instead focused on my own flexibility and being present while still holding onto that nap goal in the end. On our way home from school, we talked about the day. We talked about what we would do when we got home. I dropped into curiosity...
“What’s the first thing we do when we get home from school?”
“When do we wash hands, before we brush teeth or after? “
“What two books do you want to read today?”
Our afternoon routine was so peaceful I didn’t need to win this one and so my behavior reflected that. In fact, when I let go of winning and having power over my kiddo, I was able to find the fun, truly connect AND get to nap on time.
These Positive Discipline tools of curiosity and connection come from Adlerian Psychology, which is now backed by neuroscience. Adlerian Psychology teaches that peace of mind can be achieved when people abolish the notion of superiority of one human over the other. We can find win-win solutions and we all feel a deeper connection when that happens.
On my most tired depleted days, I try to tap into the innate fun and joy that young children bring to my life. They really can fill us up with happiness and love. After the nap, we spent a good hour making playdough cookies, silly jokes, and belly laughing together. It was exactly what I needed. I needed his help to find who I could be that day, and not what my tired self wanted to be. I can always find my best self when I stop that ongoing to-do list in my head and just melt into the moment. It is truly magical how young children live in the moment all the time. They offer us an opportunity to be right there with them, even if it is just 15 minutes of our day. We can stop, exist in that moment, and tap into the world of wonder they live in.
My little one helped me be my best self that afternoon
and for that I am grateful.
Parenthood is a messy journey. We too are born a new person every time a child enters our life. We get to find a way to be our child’s parent and they get to find a way to be our children. We all continue to grow, finding ways to live in harmony with each other. We are all, as Adlerian psychology teaches us, looking for that sense of significance (I matter, I can contribute) and belonging (I am connected to others). Through this process, we create a family eco-system, a unit that can fit together in an intricate dance.
“We need each other’s constant help to maintain our vision of what we each could be - to fortify our good intention and noble aspirations, to counteract the discouraging and demoralizing experiences to which we are all exposed in our daily living.”
~Rudolf Dreikurs (Adlerian Psychology)
These last four years have been a journey of finding my own significance and belonging in the family. How do I matter? How am I contributing? How am I connected and feeling connected to each member of my family? When I feel disconnected or undervalued what can I do to change that? How can I ask for what I need in an assertive and respectful way? Dreikurs also said that emotions are not our masters but our tools. When we can tap into our emotions and explore where they might be coming from we can find solutions by changing our own future actions.
I have been reflecting lately on the theme of emergence, and how this relates to my identity as a parent. I am realizing what a rapidly developing growth spurt I am going through too, mirroring my preschooler.
A new identity emerges with every stage, with every moment that is added to my tool belt of parenting experience.
It will continue to emerge my whole life. What a way to live. What an opportunity to be open and have the freedom to change ourselves. Our children give us this opportunity to grow, adapt, and emerge. Let’s see how far we can go.
Alanna Beebe is the founder of Sproutable. You can find other blogs from her in the New Mama Blogs.