POWER, CONTROL, OBEDIENCE. These are words that oftentimes accompany traditional parenting methods. If I were to look back at how my parents and grandmother raised us, I would say that I am grateful for their patience and the times that we got disciplined. I am extremely glad that my mom, gentle and quiet that she was, taught us that a look of disappointment is far more telling than a scream or raising of a hand, and my grandmother, though she throws expletives here and there, her firmness taught us to be mindful of our ways. I couldn’t say that things were perfect in my childhood, far from it. But as an adult and a parent now, I am fortunate to have two strong women in my life that has shown me different ways to parent and much of what I feel about showing power, control and obedience came from snippets of what I have experienced and what I would like to change based from what I have learned.
So for this month I will be focusing on the topic “How To Engage Children Without Too Much Control”. I feel that one of the most difficult part in parenting is the loosening of control- the sharing of power and letting the children take the lead. This is especially true when we think about the many parenting books on sleep training young babies. I definitely agree with Alternative Mama’s post on 8 Reasons to Avoid Sleep Training Your Baby and Science Says: Excessive Crying Could Be Harmful on the effects of the crying-it-out method. As painful as it might sound but sleep training young babies for me, seem to come more from a parents need to control the situation rather than responding to what the young one really needs.
But I feel the desire to have too much control over situations as a parent is something we have learned early on. It is most likely instilled in our unconscious as products of controlling parents (who most likely have also experienced the same from their parents and so on and so forth) or if you are like me, the control issues would stem from past experiences where the need to keep my children safe and within eyesight and arm’s reach is because of the fear of others harming them. Eversince, I began facing my fears instead of controlling my children, I felt a different connection have been formed. One that is respectful of the spirit of my children and one that gives them credit for thinking and acting on their own. Mind you, I still have the occasional “be careful” passing through my lips before I can even stop them. But I am learning to pick my own battles so to speak and just step back and let the children take the lead.
What better way to start this month’s topic than a very insightful post from Loving Earth, Mama on Fostering Self-Directed Play: ten tips for preschoolers to entertain themselves. While you’re at it better check out another post from Loving Earth, Mama on On nurturing independence and imagination: a dance of freedom and re-connection that also talks about stepping back.
After reading this post, I couldn’t help but think about one monumental event where I was faced with my “Lana-you-are-at-it-again” behavior. This happened when our youngest and I were walking to pick up her sister from school. Eversince I stopped working he also stopped from going to childcare (kinderopvang) and the playgroup (peuterspeelzaal). The moments I spent walking with him made me appreciate the decision I made to be a stay-home mom. One of the things we love to do is for him to run ahead of me, asking me to stand still, and then to run back to my arms as I twirl him around (We still do that, and now that both are in school, Milos and Katie would take turns asking for their “twirl embrace” as we fondly call it). Anyway, going back to Milos, we had one of those walks where the weather was nice and we weren’t rushing to get Katie from school. He had a couple of twirls and we came across a bench. I asked if he wants to sit down which he answered enthusiastically. So for the remaining of the week, we would walk going to school, have a few twirls and he would ask to sit on the bench with him for just a few minutes, holding hands and just looking around. He even had a spot where he would sit and where I should sit and that cannot be changed. Our son’s cute and quirky like that! 🙂 After more than a week of such routine, there was a day that the sky was filled with clouds so once we sat down on the bench, I enthusiastically pointed out the different shapes and forms that I see on the sky. It was such a marvelous sight and I was so eager to get him to talk about what he sees. His reply astounded me in ways that I can never forget. Milos looked at me (like I was someone from a different planet) and gave me his “Mama” (with his “grrr”sounding voice) then told me “shhh, alleen kijken“(“shhh, only look”). It felt like being dumped over the head with cold water, but I welcomed the wake-up call.
Have you always felt bugged by colleagues who happen to interrupt you when you are in the midst of a brilliant idea? Guess, that’s how our little ones often feel when we hover, direct and even shove the activities they need to do in their noses while they are busy with their play. It is very true, there are times when our children need for us to be actively engaged and are asking us to take part in what they are doing (like how my 5 year old daughter has asked me to sit with her while she was playing with the slime I made for them- hence, this post being saved and stopped, then started again now that they are sleeping). But in some situations, just like with Milos, it is best to be engaged in ways that is respectful to the child’s moment.
Note: This post does not in anyway advocate permissive parenting. A topic that I am sure to tackle in the coming days.