I am a person who believes in peaceful coexistence in general. To me, it’s completely alright to “agree to disagree” and still love & live in harmony. However, now as a mum of a strong-willed toddler, I often find myself struggling with the challenges of peaceful coexistence. I’m that mum who believes in peaceful parenting but somehow am not able to sustain that peace for long. I start every day on a positive note, promising myself that today I will be calm, engaging and productive with my little one but at some point through the day, something “snaps” and I find myself not living up to that promise I made to myself. Some tantrum or the other gets me all riled up… and I either loose my cool, give up or give in. And at the end of the day, I feel awful for failing at the whole peaceful parenting technique because somehow, I had had to choose between peace and parenting, at some point through the day. And an impulsive power struggle with a 2 year old, got the worse out of me.
As an early childhood professional and a toddler mum, I have read through loads of parenting related information and I have reached the conclusion that I can’t possibly follow any one parenting approach. I need a hybrid parenting style to suit my unique personality and my little one’s unique needs. Upon careful analysis of my situation, I have come to understand that my peaceful parenting approach goes for a toss each time I want to disconnect from my toddler because somehow that disconnect is instantly sensed by my toddler. By disconnect I mean, getting my space to do my own thing. By my own thing I mean, things I do for pleasure as well as the “endless” errands I run. To that disconnect, my little one responds with her tantrums and misbehaviour, simply to seek my attention and there begins the whole power struggle for my little one. And handling those attention seeking “misbehaviours” adds on to me feeling triggered, stressed and exhausted. So that’s when the “peaceful parent” in me has left the building and there begins the whole power struggle for me. WAR TIME! Our motto: Fight or fight harder… we both want to win after all. Like mother, like daughter. Head strong to the core.
So now I’m re-working on my peaceful parenting technique. I am trying to figure out how I can get my space from time to time and at the same time, have my toddler believe that I am not really disconnected from her. It’s all in the mind. I gave our communication a good thought and realised that when I am actively interacting and connecting with my little one, I am consciously trying to use positive words and phrases, even when I have to discipline her. Eg: Instead of saying “I’m mad at you for not listening to me”, I try “I’m not happy about it.” I noticed that somehow my little one responds to the second statement better and is more willing to consider ideas about how she can make me happy again. When I say “Lets talk about why I am not happy”, she’s more willing to address the problem and contribute with a solution. She not only understands how she has contributed to the “problem” but also “feels” empowered to solve that problem. Accountability and responsibility has diverted her away from her tantrums and “misbehaviours”. She’s responsive and productive! Mission accomplished!
So, I tried to use this form of positive communication to explain to her how I need my space, from time to time and to do what exactly. I realised that when executed in a right state of mind, this technique works wonders. She is more than willing to give me my space as long as she “feels” that I’m still connected to her and “knows” exactly what’s going on in that period of disconnection. So while actively engaging and interacting with her, its my job to keep that communication and relationship so transparent, authentic and connected that she is able to grasp that connection, absorb it within and sustain that into this sense of belonging, even during the “disconnect”. I noticed that when she “feels” that sense of belonging and security, it lessens her need to seek my attention because she doesn’t “feel” ignored even when I am not actively engaging with her. She feels adequate and confident to go about her own activities, “knowing” that there’s no need for her to “feel” alone. This way, we can eliminate the whole power struggle and coexist in the same space, doing our own things and getting our own way. I have come to the conclusion that my little one can only do well, when she “feels” well. Well, most of the times, she’s a toddler after all.
And guess what! When my little one behaves well, I, in turn, feel more relaxed, and am able to connect and interact with her in more genuine and positive ways. In this way, I am trying to create a space for mutual respect, unconditional sense of security, emotional growth and peaceful harmony that will enable us both, to sustain our connection, even during the disconnects. In fact, more so during the periods of disconnect. Parenting is for life and I intend to keep it as transparent and authentic as possible because that’s exactly what will build and nurture this bond of ours, for life.
No, I’m not all zen now and yes, I still loose my head, throw a tantrum myself, get overwhelmed and frustrated. And yes, my little one still gets all clingy, stubborn and annoyingly self centered from time to time; like I said she’s a toddler after all. But we are now able to cope much better when my peaceful parenting approach breaks down. Instead of feeling awful and guilty about the breakdown, I use that time and mental strength to introspect and restart the programme by addressing and fixing the glitch. I can now steadily and easily pick up from the point where I drifted off and give the whole “peaceful parenting” another shot, with an improved mindset each day. It’s all in the mind and its all about how one “feels” and makes their loved ones “feel”. This is what will matter in the years to come and I am willing to give it my best shot, every day, without giving up!