Before my first son became a full-blown toddler, I hadn’t done any research at all on child-care, children, or how they develop. I had my own experiences, a basic understanding of some human psychology, and a fairly decent instinct. But when my angelic baby turned into a strong-willed toddler, I was convinced that everything I was doing was wrong and that I was making him unhappy and ill-mannered. I couldn’t shake the fear that somehow I had ruined him already and that I was doing everything all wrong.
I quickly took to the internet in a desperate attempt to save my toddler and the relationship between us. I found some resources that really opened my eyes and I read and read until I felt like I had a decent understanding of different methods and mindsets on parenting. Then, I found Janet Lansbury and the world of Respectful Parenting.
I went into motherhood with a basic idea of what I wanted it to look like. It didn’t feel right to punish my kids for things that didn’t seem morally wrong. We knew for sure there would be no spanking or physical punishments of any kind. Mostly, I knew I wanted my kids to grow up unafraid and uninhibited by me and my expectations. I knew I wanted my role to be provider and caretaker. My only real job, in my mind, is to be there when they fall and help them get back up again. (I mean, obviously be a model for manners and stuff too.)
Despite all that, I had no idea how to execute these goals the way I wanted. Before I discovered Respectful Parenting I really had no idea how to implement my ideas effectively in a way where I was still in control. Now that I have these tools and the knowhow to really make this peaceful and respectful bond between me and my boys grow while still effectively parenting them, I’ve seen the benefits of this style of parenting. It truly changed my mood, my mindset, and my relationship with my kids for the better.
WHY I CHOOSE RESPECTFUL PARENTING
IT TAKES THE PRESSURE OFF | This may not be the best way to phrase it, given that Respectful Parenting does have a lazy vibe on the outside. With all the lack of punishment and safe places and everything. I can honestly say that when I first discovered it, I was a little unsure of how parents were still in charge of the whole operation. But as I learned more and as I introduce more of the practice into my own home, I am finding that my toddler listens better and I don’t feel as much pressure when things aren’t perfect.
The part of peaceful parenting that takes the pressure off is that the first step is to accept that toddlers don’t listen. It’s not their job to listen. Children have lots of feelings, the same as you and I do. We feel like screaming when things get overwhelming. I’ve hit a pillow or two out of extreme frustration over things that, in hindsight, were really quite ridiculous to be so upset over. And I’ve done all of this as a full grown adult with that one little thing we should have that kids don’t: self-control.
When I finally realized that my toddler’s outbursts weren’t the beginnings of a bad seed, but simply the perfectly normal and natural expression of emotion, I was less afraid. I felt so much less pressure to prevent negative feelings and extreme reactions. I finally realized it’s not my job to tell them how to feel or to make sure they’re feeling happy 100% of the time. It’s simply my job to allow my kids to feel what they need and help them find the self-control to expel their feelings appropriately over time.
IT’S FOR RAISING ADULTS, NOT KIDS | I knew before my sons were born that I was raising future adults. I knew I wanted to go into parenting this way. I had a good idea of how I wanted to parent, but it is really nice knowing that there’s a group of people out there who are parenting this way too. And it’s nice being able to find that community of people who have their own tips and tricks on how to foster our children’s childhoods to help them grow into happy and productive adults.
It’s always been tricky for me to think of children as children. Mostly because I’m always thinking 1,000 steps ahead. I look at my toddler and newborn son and see them as very tiny men. Tiny men who need me to help them be the best men that they can be. But in order to do that, I have to respect them as whole human beings with rights and developmental stages that can’t be rushed.
We’re only with our kids for a short amount of time. They will likely have their own families longer than they were ever a full part of ours. They will be responsible for themselves, and others, before we know it. We’re raising men who will need to learn to be good to women and women who need to learn to be good to men and people who need to learn to be good to people. Most importantly, we’re raising people who need to learn how to be good to themselves no matter what others bring their way.
With Respectful Parenting, it’s not about fixing the toddler problem to make a better toddler. It’s about allowing the toddler to get as much as he can out now in order to help him to walk into adulthood feeling light. Not weighed down by all the emotions he had to bury because we didn’t want a screaming toddler.
IT’S JUST AS MUCH CARING FOR YOURSELF AS IT IS CARING FOR YOUR KIDS | The older I get, the more I realize I’m a pretty sensitive person. Marriage and motherhood are two things that definitely motivate you to knock down your walls so you can share who you really are with the people closest to you. In that, you learn about yourself. So I’ve learned I’m a big sensitive baby. I’m not the type to let things roll by unaffected. I’m the type to feel everything, deeply, until I’ve finished feeling it. In return, how I’m feeling can affect everything around me. My productivity, the clothes I choose to wear, the activities I engage in, and ultimately, how effectively I can parent.
When I decided to approach parenting in a way that encourages feelings and expression within my children, I learned that patience (my worst quality) needed to be at the forefront of my mind at all times. In order to do that, I needed to take care of myself. My emotions, my problems, my stress, my insecurities; everything. It all needed to be addressed and maintained. Because, if I’m not happy, how can I help my children find happiness?
One thing that’s strongly encouraged in peaceful parenting is addressing your own issues and I love that. So many parents will feel wrong with tradition punishments and attitudes towards kids but still believe it’s the only way because thats what they were raised with. It usually stems from their own childhood. It’s something they have to work to overcome within themselves before they can implement the practice effectively in their own home. People who were raised with their own feelings being punishable offenses, shamed, or ignored have a hard time feeling like it’s okay when their kids express the same extreme feelings they need to express.
When you take a look at how you respond to your kid’s feelings, it can give you some perspective on how your own feelings were handled as a kid and how you learned to deal with them growing up. It gives you an opportunity to fix yourself in order to give your kids a better chance of learning and coping and feeling productive. And better yet, it’s very encouraging to make sure you never forget to take care of yourself through the process of parenting.