Saturday, May 19, 2012

52 Tool Cards: Letting Go

Wow, it has been a long time since my last post!  Blogging hasn't been a top priority as I've been working on building a baby and preparing for his arrival, and also getting more actively involved in my local breastfeeding and mothering community through La Leche League and MOPS.

There are only two more tool cards left for me to cover: Letting Go and Put Kids in the Same Boat.

Letting go to me means I realize that the only power of control I have is self-control.  Yes, I have a profound influence on my daughter, and I have authority over her.  I can and do use my authority to guide and shape her behavior.  At this young age, I still have the ability to control her environment to set her up for success as much as possible.  

But at the end of the day, she is still her own person with choices to make, and a spiritual and emotional life of her very own.

This tool card instructs to:
1. Take small steps in letting go.
2. Take time for training and then step back.
3. Have faith in your child to learn from his or her mistakes.
4. Get a life so your identity doesn't depend on managing your child's life.
The result, the card says, will be a child who learns responsibility and feels capable.

For me, letting go involves not only trusting my child, but trusting the God who created her and the biological and developmental processes He put in place.

When she was a tiny baby, it meant trusting that her cries meant something, that her body was designed to sleep and grow and she didn't need me to put her on a strict eating and sleeping schedule of my design.  

It meant not stressing over when she met physical developmental milestones like learning to sit up, crawl, walk, and so on.  It meant when she wanted to try something new, like climbing stairs or playground equipment, that I was there to support and encourage, guide and protect, but also let her experience falling down and going boom sometimes. 

It means I haven't actively worked on teaching her letters, numbers and colors, and yet she knows quite a lot about all those things just from our daily interactions in the course of every day life.  

It means being patient with the sometimes slower pace of the positive discipline process, recognizing that punishing or shaming my child won't make her mature any faster.  

I thought about this during a recent successful shopping trip together.  By successful I mean she walked next to me, helped push the cart, and used appropriate touches to examine items on the shelves.  At some point when her self-control began to falter I put her in the cart and she remained (mostly) on her bottom and kept herself occupied.

Two years ago, she wouldn't have been able to stay on her bottom in the cart without being strapped in, and there might have been times when she couldn't resist throwing items out of the cart.  

One year ago, or even six months ago, allowing her to walk instead of ride in the cart would have been a sure recipe for a game of  "Chase C all over the store."  She simply didn't have the impulse control to stop herself from running off.  

But just in the past few months, C's self-control has really begun to develop, and I can trust her to stay close by for short periods of time.  

Learning how to exhibit proper behavior in a store has been a slow process for C.  When she couldn't manage it, I didn't respond with punishment or shaming words, but instead responded in ways that kept her and the store's merchandise safe and allowed me to focus on shopping as much as possible.  

In general, I try to set us both up for success by keeping shopping trips short.  I sometimes remember to bring snacks or toys for her to occupy herself with if she must ride in the cart, or I play pretend games with her.

When she couldn't stay on her bottom, she was strapped in.  

When she couldn't stop herself from throwing, items weren't placed near her in the cart.  

When she couldn't stay close to mama, she might be given the chance to wear a monkey backpack and let me hold the tail.  If she pulled at that harness trying to run away, or refused to walk when it was time to move on, she went back in the cart.  

If she asked for the chance to walk without the backpack, I'd assess my patience level first.  We'd go over the ground rules, most important being that the minute she started to wander or run away, she went back in the cart.  Not as punishment, but just matter of fact, "It's my job to keep you safe."  

Kids learn by repetition.  Each shopping trip is a chance to repeat the lessons of proper store behavior.  Letting go means that I trust she will "get it" eventually, even if I don't spank her, give her a time out or verbally shame her to "teach her a lesson."  

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