Or rather, how sometimes losing your patience pays.
* Warning: it's about to get all kinds of controversial and so very honest on this little blog of mine. In fact, I started this post back in October, and I am just now working up the courage to post it. As with all my parenting posts, my intent is to share my experiences in the hopes that it will help someone else. I am prepared for the negative comments, but please keep it civilized, ladies and gents.
Losing your patience as a parent is not p.c. behavior. In this day and age, a parent is supposed to have the patience of Job and the positive attitude of the Dalai Lama. I'm here to say that not only is that totally unrealistic, it might not always be what is best.
First of all, I would like to say that I am a huge proponent of positive, mindful parenting. I spend as much of my time as possible engaged and present with my son. I "catch" him being good, praise positive behavior, and say yes A LOT. In fact, I ALWAYS give a reason for saying no and it is NEVER "because I said so." I am also EXTREMELY patient; as a Montessori supporter, I let Jude do many many things by himself, which means they take twice as long. I also have a long fuse and try to pick my battles, letting the little stuff go with a chuckle.
But here's the thing: I am human, and so are you! As parents we simply can't always say yes, and we can't always keep our cool. More importantly, we shouldn't. Now I'm not proposing that you start flying off the handle when your toddler spills her milk or scream when you have to ask twice. And physically hurting your child is obviously NEVER acceptable. What I am proposing is that you follow your gut as a parent, even if it means losing your cool.
I recently threw out all I had read and everything I "wanted to be" as a parent and really lost my s**t. And you know what, I'm glad I did. Not only did I finally get through to Jude that I will not be disrespected, I taught him that I am not "practically perfect in every way." Rather, I am a strong woman capable of powerful emotion and pointed self expression.
Are you dying to know what happened? Don't worry, I'm not going to just speak in vaugeries, here's what went down:
After patiently asking Jude for the fourth time to undress and start getting ready for our day, I got a rather nasty response. Lots finger pointing and air shoving and bossing. "No, you don't tell me!" That kind of thing. Well, maybe it was because I had kept my cool through one too many of these outbursts, but as I stood in the hall breathing deeply, I decided I'd had quite enough. I walked back in his room, got down on his level and in a stern raised voice said something along these lines: "I will not be treated that way. Shoving your hands and telling me no is unacceptable. I owe you love, food, and shelter. Everything else is extra. I don't have to take you to library time right now or let you paint whenever you want or give you all of these toys." And then to the tune of a very upset screaming toddler I removed all, and yes I mean all, of the toys from his room. It was really quite a sight, I wish I had thought to take a picture. Imagine all of the toys from here, piled here. When we both calmed down, I explained that he could have his toys back when he was ready to be nice. I also apologized for raising my voice and gave him lots of hugs and kisses and reminded him that I loved him very much. I simply wouldn't stand for rude, angry behavior any longer. And guess what? It worked. No really, like not just for the day, but there has been a marked improvement in his behavior ever since. He still argues and throws the occasional fit (things I find healthy, I don't want to squash his strong spirit), but he doesn't fight every single point, and he doesn't use what we call "angry hands." A line that needed drawing was drawn. He's happier and so am I.
The reason I wanted to share this story is not because I think this blow-up was an ideal parenting moment, but because it was a very real one. Of course there are things I could have done differently, but sometimes, when you are in the thick of this parenting thing, your best isn't as pretty as you imagined.
Hope to never flip out like I did? This article has great tips for avoiding what she calls mama tantrums.
It should also be noted that not every single toy was returned, because this was the perfect opportunity to put Simplicity Parenting principles to good use. And this no doubt helped in more ways than one.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever flipped out and been glad you did? Do you feel pressure to be constantly calm as a parent? Please tell me I'm not the only one who has gone a little nuts.