Princess and The Rock

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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Positive Parenting

Positive Parenting. It seems like a long time since I practised that. And I feel GUILTY.

What is positive parenting anyway? Dr. Laura Markham puts it across concisely here:

"Positive parenting -- sometimes called positive discipline, gentle guidance, or loving guidance -- is simply guidance that keeps our kids on the right path, offered in a positive way that resists any temptation to be punitive. Studies show that's what helps kids learn consideration and responsibility, and makes for happier kids and parents."

I should know better, right? I mean, I was a counsellor for a good six years in the (former) Family and Children Protection and Welfare Services in the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports Ministry (MCYS). MCYS is now MSF (Ministry of Social and Family Development).

And I was not any old counsellor, but one who was formally trained in helping parents use the Triple P Program to improve their parenting skills! As one who has the knowledge at my finger tips, I should be a gleaming, shiny example of a positive parent, right? NO. Well, maybe I was for the first two years, before my second born came along. With one child, I was all about "Good job, sweetheart!" or "Uh-oh, you spilled the milk? Don't worry, mummy can wipe that away." It's a totally different story now; spilled anything means a big fat frown from me and withdrawal of privilege is the weapon of choice preferred disciplinary action.

Today my "monster" (one of the Rock's favourite words) persona stood out conspicuously to me as I witnessed THE ULTIMATE POSITIVE PARENT in action at  My Treehouse at the Central Public Library. The mother was full of smiles and encouraging words. Her toddler was attempting to put together a few pieces of giant jigsaw cushions together and each time he managed to lift up one piece, she would say, "Oh! Good job!" or "That was a heavy one, isn't it? You are strong!" I was almost mesmerised by the interaction between the parent-child duo. Then slowly a sense of guilt crept in, not the beat-myself-up-over-it type of guilt but more of the I'm-sorry-for-not-keeping-it-up-but-I'll-do-better kind of feeling.

As if being the positive parent wasn't good enough, she was the GRACIOUS parent as well. She was absolutely benevolent towards a much older boy (maybe around nine year old) who took away the cushion, which her child was sitting on, such that the child nearly fell forward. She did not tell the child off nor showed a tiny bit of displeasure! Then it seemed God was still unsure if I got the message that I needed to self-reflect, she said to another little girl, "It's difficult to share, isn't it? But you are doing a great job putting together the puzzle!" when the same older boy attempted to hoard all the cushions to build a fort. I could totally see myself going up to him and giving him a piece of my mind if I were she (in a controlled manner, of course).

If the police were to "catch me" for negative parenting,
I would be behind bars now. :(

The mother I saw was a picture of calmness, control and comfort that I was and want to be now. Rebecca Eanes, in this post, wrote about mindfulness in parenting and the thing that struck me most was this:
"Caring, compassion, and empathy do not make us weak parents but rather requires great strength and composure. Being mindful also means we must learn to control our emotional reactivity, and mindful parents teach emotional balance to our children."

Nothing can be more true than the statement above! Being a caring, compassionate and empathic parent certainly requires more careful thought and control (of emotions) than dishing out one-liner threats. Indeed I noticed that when my emotions got erratic, my children's behaviour got out-of-hand too. The mirroring of our actions, emotion and reaction is undeniable, so the sooner we realise that, the easier it is for us to parent or discipline positively.

Speaking of which I am glad to report that since I took on the Orange Rhine Challenge, the occasions of yelling has dipped. I guess putting the image of the ridiculous Orange Rhino in my head consciously when I felt my anger rising did help to diffuse the angry feelings. However I cannot declare that I am yell-free for like Jesus said, "My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak."

What is the greatest challenge for you in parenting positively? Is it a messy house or a particular "problem behaviour"? Please share with me in the comments!

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