Parenting

“Alongside” Parenting: Disciplining with Love

It was so loud. She was always SO. LOUD.

I closed my eyes, clenched both my teeth and the wooden soup spoon in my hand, and took a deep breath… swallowing my own instantly-flared anger. Lord, help me. I waited.

After a few seconds, when I could feel the wave of raging frustration slide back down and away from me, I opened my eyes and turned toward my enraged little four-year old. Compassion, I reminded myself, and thought about what it felt like to be her right now. And my heart softened. I knelt down to her level, and implored her with my eyes.

“Be careful honey… watch out for your anger, so it doesn’t get you in trouble!” Her eyes locked on mine, and I could tell my words had halted the furious stream on consciousness in her mind. Her face softened as she took in what I’d said. And then I saw it… tender surrender. “Ok, mommy.”

I hugged her, and we talked through whatever the problem was. This is now a very ordinary scenario in our day, but that day it had been a miracle – one of the first times in her highly emotional little life, that I had managed to reach her heart and help her stop the storm, before she exploded. Until that day, a five-minute screaming fit was inevitable any time “Hannah got mad,” and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it. Since the day she was born, my beautiful, vivacious, bubbly little girl had always been brimming with more emotion and intensity than she could manage. And I was exhausted from over four years of trying to manage it myself. More often, I ended up just mirroring her behavior, instead of influencing it… we were the both of us, just plain angry and worn out.

But that day changed not just my daughter’s success rate with her temper, but our relationship itself. It changed the way I viewed discipline and parenting in general. I started to understand my job as more of an “alongside” position, than an “standing over” one. We were in this fight together, my little girl and I… much more equal in our need for compassion and accountability, than I had ever realized before. It was humbling. But also unbelievably freeing… for both of us.

Our job is not to control our children… our job is to guide them in learning how to control themselves.

You might want to let that sink in a bit. I certainly did.

Parenting this way also brings a little more focus on how WE are controlling ourselves. Good, biblical discipline is more teaching than punitive… and if you want to teach something, you need to model it. Children imitate more of what they see than what they are told.

And so, these have become my two secrets to successfully guiding my daughter through managing her emotions: 1) Seeing her with compassion and humility and respect, “alongside” instead of “over,” and 2) Showing her the source of my own strength, in managing my own emotions… and the source of my strength, when I’m feeling desperate and out of control, is always prayer.

Teach your little ones to pray. Prayer is so simple, so informal, and so utterly life-giving and personal… and children take to it like a fish takes to water. If you guide them to relationship with God, they will learn very quickly to run to Him when they need him.

(I’ll never forget when my 2 year old son ran away from me into the kitchen, crying and praying, chewing God out about ME! lol, my heart was so softened that day, too… and I’ll tell you what, that sweet boy came back out of the kitchen just a few minutes later, his usual calm self. Prayer works… give them the tools, and they will use them!)

Ephesians 6:4 – “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

Ephesians 4:2&3 – “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults, because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

Matthew 7:7 – “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

I hope this is encouraging to you today, my friends… hang in there! Life is beautiful, and we have all that we need:) Hugs! 💕🍃🥰

Parenting

“Yes Environments” – When Your Kids are Going Stir-Crazy

I read once that the best gift we can give our kids is an environment in which they are allowed to touch everything. When I first saw that, I suddenly had much more compassion for the frustration my little ones must feel, at being constantly told “no!” I would get frustrated and stir-crazy too.

Now – I have 4 kids under 6. 🤨 My husband is in the military, which means I need to solo-parent for days to months at a time. (Plus, I’m a neat freak). So, you cringing moms… I hear you! I run a tight ship, too… and toddlers are usually tyrants lol, who obviously have to be told no – a lot. :/

But I still try to remember that idea – that it’s a kindness, to create some relief space for frustrated kids.

And I’m finding more and more, that on those days when we are all going stir-crazy, our peace swallowed up by tension and rush? Letting go, and saying “yes” a bit more, instead of grasping frantically for control, seems to be (ironically), the key to recovering that peace.

For example: one particular afternoon, a few months ago. It had been an exceptionally long morning, if you know what I mean…. and then both babies took their shortest nap in history. The day started to feel rushed and frazzled. So instead of grasping for more control (which is what I felt like doing), I started to say “yes.”

Yes, you can go play outside in the rain.

Yes, you can put your hands in the mud puddles, stomp as big as you wish, and sit down in the puddle.

Yes, you may build mud castles on the patio.

Yes, you may have my kitchen spoons to dig, and my wooden chopsticks and cloth napkins to make a flag for your castle.

Sure, have some mashed potatoes with your pasta. Yes, you can mix it up together. Knock your socks off.

(But no, you cannot ignore me or be unkind to your brother, or throw food in the floor – absolutely not, lol).

Uncontrolled chaos is a different thing. But kids are built to stretch and explore…. and the more we can free them up to do so, the more relieved and content they often will be.

And here’s the kicker – the more I said “sure?” (Even though it often made more work and mess for myself?) The more my perspective gently re-centered on what mattered most – and the more I relaxed into the sweetness of the day. 🍃🌧🤗

Sometimes, the path back to peace and perspective, involves a little chaos… and that’s ok. 😉