A conversation with my daughter while enjoying dessert at home.
Me: What are you doing, darling? (Caught her starring into space)
Me: Hmm? Of What?
E: Why daddy always angry me. (Her way of saying me being angry at her)
Me: When? (Heart rate increase and sweat while awaiting her answer)
E: The other day when I was sitting on a chair when we choose clothes. (We were shopping for her clothes online)
Me: Daddy didn't want you to fall from the chair.
E: Also don't have to angry ma.
You see, I wasn't angry when telling her to sit properly but stern nevertheless. Not only to prevent her from falling, but also because what she did was distracting. I've thought of explaining myself but didn't because experience has taught me sometimes the less said, the better it is. A wiser choice is to improve my communication skills.
However, there were occasions when I lost my temper against my daughter, and it happened more frequently when I was a new parent and under stress. This is what the authors of "The Danish Way of Parenting" refer to as our "Default Settings" - actions and reactions we have when we are too tired to choose a better way. Most are inherited from our parents. They are the factory setting we return to when we are at our wit's end and not thinking. It's when we hear ourselves saying things we don't want to be saying. It's when we act and react in ways we aren't sure we want to. It's when we feel bad because deep down we know there is a better way to get results from our kids, but we aren't sure what it is.
I have been in these situations more often than I would like, frankly. How about you? The good news is, we can do something about it. Here are some ways I've tried that might work for you too:
1. Understanding / knowing myself
Knowing myself, my strength and especially my pressure points help me to know when to walk away (for a while) and take a deep breath before I lost it. Fact is, we won't truly know ourselves unless we are being tested - by our children, in this case. I believe there is no one perfect way of parenting. No SOP, if you like. Because every child, circumstances and background are unique. So, stop comparing with other parents, it will only give undue pressure or false assurance. Knowing ourselves let us know which areas to work on, which brings me to the next point.
2. Learn, learn, learn
There's no other way. Learn widely. The goal is to improve ourselves in as many areas as possible as a person. Read books, join support groups, listening podcast, whatever works for you. For things to change, I must. Let's adopt a growth mind-set because parenting is a life-long project and we want to stay relevant to our children as long as possible. I shudder to think of the day when my daughter might say, "Daddy is old-school and dated". I quietly pray that day would never come as long as I live.
3. Stay Healthy
Carve out some time for exercise. Make it happen! Eat well, sleep well. We can't win battles with a weak body. I've changed my lifestyle from being a night owl to be an early bird. It's tough initially but very rewarding. Waking up early help me to have an early start to the day. I get a few hours of solitude where my mind is very fresh to do things like reading, thinking and exercise before the busyness of the day takes hold of my day. You should try it. You know what? Some of the most successful people are early birds.
Parenting is not a walk in the park. To be honest, I think it is one of the toughest "jobs" in the world. We can't run away from it, for that would be irresponsible. We can't delegate it, because children need their parents. So, salute to all the full-time parents, you deserve a pat on your back.
I truly believe that parenting is more about being (who we are) than doing (what we do). Because we can't fake it and we can't impart to our children what we don't have. Now, if you ever find yourself saying I don't have time for improvement, maybe it's time to say "no" to certain "luxurious" things in life. Let's grow together with our children. Happy parenting!
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