A few days ago, I wrote a post that addressed having confidence as a parent. There are observable skills that we can develop that will help us become more effective mothers (and fathers)—and there are also invisible skills that no one else sees but that we very much are aware of inside of ourselves. These invisible skills affect not only our state of mind and heart (what and how we think and feel), but they also affect the observable skills (what and how we do what we do).
Examples of these invisible parenting skills (which also apply to other areas of life, such as our career and our relationships) are qualities like patience, meekness, kindness, peace, and self-control. Some people are born with higher levels of these sorts of things than others, but we all have the ability to grow our levels, no matter where our levels were to begin with.
Here are three ideas that you can try to help you develop your invisible parenting skills.
Wait just a little longer before acting. Only a little time, like an extra moment or split second longer is needed. When you feel your frustration rise for whatever reason (whether your child is having a meltdown and nothing you do is helping or whether your child won’t clean up their toys no matter what kind of incentive you’ve tried or whether you just need a break but can’t get one or whether you’d like to be the one who cries and whines when you feel like it instead of having to be the adult all the time), first you have to recognize that your frustration is rising. Notice it.
Once you’ve noticed it (whether it’s frustration or depression or anxiety or anything else that tends to spiral out of control if left unchecked), then take a moment. Right there. You don’t have to go anywhere or say anything. Just right there, in your head, know that you need a moment. A split second. A pause. In your heart, simply wait for the wave of frustration to pass. Because it will pass. And then you can move forward.
If your child won’t stop talking to you or if you can’t concentrate because of the sound of your child’s meltdown, just close your eyes for a moment. Pay attention to your breathing. Only for a second. This will help you regain your sense of control in the present. Because the second you feel like things are unraveling out of your control, it can be tempting to give a snap reaction out of fear. And if you’re prone to reacting negatively to sensations of frustration (powerlessness), depression (hopelessness), or anxiety (overwhelming-ness), then you’ll just be perpetuating the negative cycle if you don’t take a minute to gain your footing before continuing.
Patience is about understanding and wisdom. Take steps to understand how your emotions have an effect on your behavior, and then exercise the wisdom to stay in control of your emotions so that your emotions don’t end up controlling your behavior. Waiting an extra moment before responding to your child in a given situation may be all that you need for the negative feelings to pass so that you can proceed positively.
Meekness is about having a long fuse. Those little waiting moments add up, and eventually you will notice that you don’t have to be so deliberate about it—you will naturally give yourself a moment before responding. You will choose to wait now (to give yourself a moment to get calm and stay calm, for example) so that you don’t have to backtrack later (if you’ve overreacted or reacted in a way that wasn’t in your and your child’s best interest, for example).
Kindness is about letting gentleness and tenderness show. The way we speak to and touch our children should be loving—even if the moment is a heated one. Giving ourselves a moment to re-gain clarity helps us keep the kindness in our family.
Peace is about keeping things relaxed and even-keeled. When there is tension, we seek to smooth it out and work it out. We don’t deny or avoid conflict; we attempt to address it and to find a real solution to the problem. Waiting an extra second before we respond to our children will help us to contribute positively to the peace we seek to create in our relationships with our children.
Self-control is about living within acceptable and reasonable boundaries. This is as much for your own good as it is for your children’s. You may feel like you want to yell and scream and throw things and hit the wall, but there’s also a reason why we shouldn’t behave this way—especially when we are dealing with children. Not only do they learn from us and we want to teach them well (how to act, how to manage and regulate emotions, how to handle different situations), but they also are dependent on us for safety and security. We cannot put our children in a situation where they are in danger—including physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Good parents simply protect their children’s well-being. And we need to do whatever we need to do to get a hold of ourselves so that we can demonstrate our own self-control. We are the adult, even if we don’t feel like it. Even if we don’t want to be. Our children are the actual children. So if we want to show them what a grown-up looks like and sounds like, then it’s up to us to demonstrate those skills for them. Waiting a few seconds before we gently respond to our children will help us develop our self-control.
We’ll cover the next two ideas (for developing our invisible parenting skills) in a future post.
Do you find that waiting an extra moment or two helps you to respond better to your children?