Seeing Michael pull yet another bedtime academy award performance for yelling, not listening and rudeness, made me realize something at the end of a very long hour. I absolutely cannot alter anything in his bedtime routine until we get his challenging behaviors under control. It was a question of me needing ten more minutes to finish something for work and he stayed with Dad. He had ten more minutes of the audio visual he had worked so hard to get by good listening. There had even been a nice snack and talking time after school. He had shared news with me about school, though not the details like he used to share until a couple of weeks ago. I had thought things were turning around. I was wrong. He needed the routine to stay exactly the same last night. He needed me to stay calm when he started testing, but all I could think, was NOT AGAIN. He and I were not on the same wavelength last night. We were both tired and not communicating properly.
All Moms and Dads have those days, but if you see you are falling into a pattern in your family of fights, stress, and the same anxieties coming up, it is time to look at your patterns of communication with your child, your partner, and yourself. Our family is going through that now. We have our good days, and our bad days. What is important is to learn from the bad days, to see what changes we could make and to do them. It is important to honestly communicate with your partner about what you and they could do differently and individually. And then, the hardest part. Both partners have to be on the same page and show a united front to the child. Also, both partners have to be open and loving with the child. Authoritarian parenting does not work, and that is where many of us go wrong. We start out loving, present, but as exhaustion and frustrations in us build, we veer to the authoritarian model and who loses, our child.
Being a Mom and Dad is hard work. You have your child, your job, your home. You are pulled in millions of different directions and it is hard to know where to prioritize things sometimes. But at the top of the list is your own self-care. If you are not focused and centered, you cannot handle any curve balls your child will throw at you. Do what you need to do to put things like exercise, sleep and some personal leisure time at the top of your list. If not, it will show in your parenting over time as you reserves of patience and love will run thin. Remember too, as we all tend to forget, that challenging behavior is a sign of something bothering your child, some need that is not getting met in a positive way. When you are both calm, talk to your child about it. Figure out what is bothering them, and then structure their time so they know what to expect.
Exceptional Parents, how do you balance it all and are you at the top of that list of balance? Do you take care of yourself well so you can take care of your child the best way possible? If not, make that change today. Small ways you give yourself care and attention will translate into your parenting, and before long you will be connecting with your child on a whole new level again. Be gentle with yourself. We all make mistakes. Until next time.
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