Example is the best teacher.
Do you expect your children to control their behavior when you don't control your behavior?
This card hit home this week.
Between grieving the due date that just past and dealing with my period and a touch of the stomach flu, I started the week with a short fuse. My self-control for limiting my consumption of media and keeping up with household chores was at an all-time low and the internet sucked up far too much attention that C needed and wanted.
When she whined and acted up to get my attention, I snapped at her. Truth be told, I snapped at her about almost everything on Monday and Tuesday. Even when I wasn't yelling, I had a nasty impatient tone to my voice whenever I spoke to her. C dished it right back to me, and I started to feel like I didn't like being around her much, which just perpetuated the cycle.
The Holy Spirit began gently nudging me. Would I like it if someone spoke that way to me? How could I get my anger under control? I felt convicted but didn't change much.
On Wednesday, the Holy Spirit used the Carnival of Gentle Discipline to nudge me a little harder. Specifically, a post from Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond, Mirror Mirror in My Bed. I saw myself in that post, and it was humbling.
Then later that morning I randomly selected a tool card to see what I would be blogging about this week ... and Control Your Behavior came up.
Okay, Holy Spirit, I got the message. I repented of my attitude and behavior right then.
The card continues:
Create your own special time-out area and let your children know when you need to use it. If you can't leave the scene, count to 10 or take deep breaths. When you make mistakes, apologize to your children.
I apologized to C the next time I caught myself using that nasty impatient tone. (It was easy to tell, because she was using it right back at me!)
I apologized to her for yelling and using a mean voice. "I don't like speaking like that to each other. Let's start over with kind, pleasant voices and words."
There is so much I know about parenting from reading, but putting it into practice is a different story. For example, I know that children are wired to learn by imitating models.
As Becky Bailey writes in Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline,
Yet we often demand that children acquire skills that we ourselves lack ... Parents yell, "Go to your room until you are in control of yourself." A mother grabs a toy that two preschoolers are tussling over and says "You know better than to grab toys from your friends. It's mine now!"
It's so easy to default to not controlling myself, to yell, to grab, to react blindly instead of thoughtfully and creatively responding to the situation at hand. On a related note, check out this humorous post from Demand EUPHORIA.
To succeed at gentle discipline demands personal growth on my part. My friend Dulce de Leche , in another post from this week's Carnival of Gentle Discipline put it so well:
At first when we decided to commit to gentle discipline, I only thought in terms of my children and their behavior. I had no idea how deeply it would change me. I have been forced to deal with a lot of things that I would have preferred to cover up. Things like pride. Anger. Unhealthy boundaries. Self-centeredness. I have had to do some major weeding in my own heart. And that is a very good thing. If spanking had been part of my parenting tool box, it would have been so easy for me to justify revenge on my children for not catering to my pride, for exposing my anger or impatience or even for not being convenient at times.
Being gentle can be very hard work! But I know from posts like Dulce's that the work is well worth it. I've already seen some fruit from our efforts, and can't wait to what more is in store!