Today I want to consider our own tantrums, as parents. Those we have with our kids sometimes and then regret. And I want to give us a chance to offer ourselves some grace and forgiveness, and I want to present what I think makes a rotten parent.
The reason I began reading and then writing about all this stuff is because I am far from the perfect parent. I do my best, and when I know better I do better. I have made mistakes and some of them I seriously regret. I understand how important it is to do a good job of parenting and I love my boys – I want them to have the best start in life that they can have. A start that will carry them effectively through their lives. I share what I have found here, so that others may learn what I have learned.
When it comes to our children learning about relationships, our tantrums are wonderful. I know many of you will think I’m mad to say that, but they really are.
Our tantrums give us two wonderful opportunities. They give us the opportunity to pause and reflect and make changes. They give us the opportunity to teach our children how to repair relationships.
No relationship will ever be perfect. We always let each other down, no matter how hard we try not to. Relationships are about togetherness and being apart. They are about being in-step with one another and sometimes out of step. They are about fraying the ropes that bind us and re-braiding those ropes again. The importance of the other person and our relationship with them is what keeps us invested.
You see, between any two people we have three entities. Each individual and then the relationship as a separate creation on its own. We need to be separate and value ourselves as individuals and see the relationship as something different again. This is where occasional rupture and learning the skills of relationship repair are vital. Our children have to learn, over time, they are not us and we are not them. We are each separate and the relationship holds us together. If our children don’t learn how we repair relationships when they’re with us, it’s a whole lot harder for them to do so when they aren’t living at our house. This bit of parenting is easier than it seems, we occasionally tantrum with our children – then we can sincerely apologise and we can help the children and ourselves make sense of what happened.
(Some relationships are not worth preserving and those we must allow ourselves the grace to discontinue. So many of us have been taught to be polite and make an effort with everyone, yet if the other is caught up living a life on the Drama Triangle the only way, to stop ourselves being caught up in that triangle, is to cut all ties. We do this so that we can go on to live an emotionally and mentally healthy life.)
Children will forgive their parents almost anything. Therefore grace in parenting, as far as I am concerned, is our ability to forgive ourselves when we’ve done wrong. The proviso: that we then go on to find new information and make things better in the minutes, days and years to come.
And validation can reassure us that we’re doing better all the time.
I recently read a wonderful article about validation. (http://markmanson.net/validation) To feel good about ourselves in a healthy way, we need both internal validation and external. For internal validation, the best we can do is to parent the way that will give us the most peace in the long-term. We have to be able to live with ourselves in 2, 5, 10, 45 years time and know that we did the best we could with the resources we had.
If things aren’t going well or we’ve made mistakes – it’s not the current situation or the mistakes that make us rotten parents.
No, being a rotten parent comes from the refusal to pause, reflect and make changes when our kids aren’t turning out how we thought they might, or when we’re having constant meltdowns and not trying different approaches. It’s the NOT TRYING TO MAKE THINGS BETTER that makes some parenting rotten. I think this, anyway.
When we make changes – even if things are a bit hit-and-miss at times – then, not only are we doing as well as we can and can give ourselves some grace, we also gain that internal validation that we need. Internal validation is what carries us through the times when we get the frosty-nostril from people who disagree with how we’re doing things. Internal validation makes us OK with ourselves. External validation is also important and reassuring.
I gain most of my external validation from one friend. She has children of similar ages with similar temperaments and is parenting in a similar (at an emotional level) marriage to me. We often bounce ideas off one another and make changes as we need to. I also have a friend with adult children who is an important sounding board for when I am feeling a bit wobbly.
Other external validation can come from our children – not in what they say but in what they do. Examples are things like: the friends our children choose to be with; their ability to make warm and non-intrusive eye-contact with as many people as possible (increasingly over time for our very shy Owl children); their spontaneous warmth and affection; their ability to know when to work and when to be mischievous; their increasingly ability to self-manage and to have delayed gratification; their ability to make sense of their lives as if they are living as characters in a story (https://kloppenmum.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/autobiography-why-you-need-to-have-one/).
If we are happy with these things in our children’s lives, then that might be all the external validation we need – then we can give ourselves a whole heap of grace.
When I’m having a tough day, I always love seeing this in my facebook feed:
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