Thursday, October 9, 2014

When Your Neighbor Humbles You

If you were to walk in my house today, you would see this sign proudly on display right when you walk in the door.

I wholeheartedly love it and believe it. The problem is, I don't always live it.

About a month ago, we were on a family walk and ran into one of our neighbors. We are the only family with young kids in our small neighborhood, so I happened to apologize if he heard my kids screaming or crying a lot, because let's be honest, they fight a ton. What he said next made me humiliated and then question the very core of who I am. He said, "Well sometimes I hear them, or you but it's ok, my dad ruled with a strong hand and looking back I can see it was good for me." You guys, my heart sank. While we have agreed to be peaceful, gentle parents, and we have chosen not to spank, apparently my voice has not gotten control. To the point where it still looked as if I was ruling with a heavy hand.

I wanted to come back with every excuse in the book. When you have 3 girls who are close in age, there is competition and they are whiny, they fight, and they scream. They are spirited, and passionate and I have to get control somehow.

Except yelling isn't control and I sat there unable to defend myself and blame it on my kids.

This past summer was a tough one for me. I'm honestly not sure why. I started to feel this shift in my girls with all three wanting a bit more independence and then all three making their voices heard through loud protests, screaming, fighting with me, and with each other. It wasn't a peaceful summer at our home and I felt my stress level rising. I had to get control of these kids. So I yelled because somehow in my mind, yelling is control. I threatened to spank. Sometimes I really yelled, like the one that makes your whole body shake.

Yeah it was bad.

Then that conversation happened and it was like a slap in my face. Here I was claiming to be a gentle parent, when in reality, yelling can do just as much damage to a little soul.

I'm not naïve enough to believe I will never yell again, but it did make me take a good look at myself and decide exactly what kind of mom I want to be. It also made me change some things I realized were causing the frustration in the first place.

If I yell, they will yell. I quickly realized that the calmer I am, the calmer they are. Trust me, my nature is not one of calm. I am passionate and typically that comes across in how I speak to people. But I realize that if I can talk to other adults without yelling (even when I'm frustrated), I can talk to my girls with that same calm voice.

I started empathizing more with them. My nature as a parent is to be very matter of fact and not fuss over my children. This is great on one hand, but on the other, I realized my kids were feeling like I didn't care at all when they were expressing their frustrations, thus it was quickly escalating to screaming as they wanted my attention.

This brings me to my last point, I wasn't paying attention to them. I was either in the kitchen, doing laundry, or on my phone and all my kids were hearing from me was, "Just give me one more minute". They wanted more of my time and attention and I wasn't giving it to them. They are smart and a great way to get that attention is to cause trouble thus mom would pay attention, even if it was negative attention. Lately, I've been letting the house and laundry slide and I've instead been playing with my kids. Not just cuddling or reading a book, but actually playing. They love it and our house runs a lot more smoothly if I even just spend 10 minutes investing into what they like to do.

So we are making some changes around here. Mainly those changes come from me and it hasn't been easy. But the more I set an example for them, the more they follow that example. Perhaps next summer I can see my neighbor and hear him say how he loves hearing the laughter come from our yard.

Have you ever had to take a good look at yourself as a parent and then change? What have you done to help that change take place?

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