I know that I am not alone when I say there are still two extremely challenging areas of the day for ALL parents, those embracing peaceful/conscious parenting styles which follow the Empowerment Model, and those that use authoritative/ancient parenting with the Power Model:
In the morning, we’ve just woken up, we have a huge agenda that we are in FEAR around meeting, we generally haven’t had a second for self-care and may still be exhausted from being up with the baby all night, and then we have to get kids to conform to the BS our culture has created where they ALSO have to meet an agenda and get to school/daycare on time, dressed in clean clothes, and fed.
At night, we’re also exhausted from the day, we probably still haven’t had a second to spare for self-care, and we have two goals: for everyone to get rest, and to get a f&@%ing tiny bit of self-care, FINALLY!!
And we also have to get kids to go along with this idea – kids that we’ve probably told what and when and how to do everything all day long, and overprotected for fear they bump a hair, who we are suddenly saying this to: “Sorry kid, go to sleep by yourself in the dark right now!”
Who are we kidding??? The stress we create for ourselves and our kids is unbelievable!
So, like anything else, we have GOT to get our self-care in, however we can. Maybe it means we let the kids watch a bit of TV before bed while we meditate or draw. Maybe it means we meditate while the kids are unwinding in their rooms with us. Maybe it means we wake up at 4AM and workout and meditate before they get up. Maybe it means we’ve squeezed a nap in or gone out with the girls (or guys) one night this week. Maybe we took a motorcycle ride after work while our wife had some time alone with the kids. Maybe we took a hot bath right after dinner. Maybe we took them to the park so we could interact with nature after school. Or we went to the spa for a manicure on lunch. You get the idea.
Then we have got to stop the clashing agendas. We have to DROP. OUR. AGENDAS. We have to get up early enough that it’s okay to get there on two year old time. We have to start bed earlier so we don’t mind when they ask for one more story. In some cases, we may decide it’s not one of our values to have a specific bedtime and we’re going to safely co-sleep with the kids when everyone is ready for bed and that’s that – no bedtime struggle at all!
Whatever the case, the main point is that we have to drop our expectations, set the intention for how we want the morning and bedtime to feel, and then empower our kids to get everything done that must be done – usually with some negotiation.
I read “The Conscious Parent” by Dr. Shefali Tsabary when my first child was a few months old, so I’ve never used the Power Model in my parenting. The closest I’ve come is before I read “How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen” and didn’t know how important it is to phrase everything a certain way with kids – things like saying “The problem is…” instead of “But…”, or “You did it!” instead of “Good job!”
One of the most valuable phrases I learned was “Let me know when you’re ready.”
So, when we have a battle over brushing teeth, I might say:
“I know it’s fun to play in the sink. The problem is, if we don’t brush your teeth you’ll get cavities and have to have fillings, so we need to take good care of your teeth every day. Let me know when you’re ready and I’ll help you brush your teeth.”
This one simple phrase puts the power back into the child’s hands. I use it all of the time! She might look at me for a minute, or smile at herself in the mirror some more, but she will let me know within a few minutes that she is ready.
Another good one is “As soon as you ….. we’ll…. ” This works fantastic when we are at a standstill getting dressed or putting on pajamas.
“As soon as you get your pajamas on, we’ll read a story.”
“As soon as you get dressed, we’ll go eat breakfast.”
This is the only way to incentivize without actually creating a reward, which is just a punishment in disguise (because they have to do something to get it). It also clues them into your thought process behind what you’re asking them to do and why.
I mean, think about it. If someone wanted YOU to do something, how would you want them to approach you and speak to you about it? Remember that our kids are no different. We’re guiding them, but they are still people and will still be doing all of this on their own before we know it.
In fact, knowing as soon as I get these stupid dishes in the dishwasher I can go relax in my bed is a very important way to look at the things we accept doing but do not enjoy doing. Our kids are no different and they’ll be adults like us one day that have to do the shitty jobs too.
And, perhaps the most important tool of all, is to find a way to play with your child in that moment. Make the tooth brush talk. Make dolls have a conversation about your child refusing to get dressed on her own. MAKE THEM LAUGH. Change the energy!
What have you found that works for you?