Arms reach parenting | Personal Post
I had a revelation the other day and I feel like it is in process of changing everything for me.
I have been learning a lot about parenting as I began this journey about 4.5 years ago and some things have built on each other to sort of form my philosophy...
Parenting starts in the womb where a person is safe and warm and never hungry and regularly in motion. After birth, babies still want as much of this “home-like” sensation in their lives as possible- and this is a logical desire for them and logical for us as parents to provide it!
Boundaries for children should expand with age: inside the womb, children have absolutely zero ability to decide anything for themselves, with time and cognitive abilities outside the womb, this decision making power can and should expand. This keeps them safe and gradually teaches them greater and greater ability to use their power
When children make poor decisions, the consequences should be as much a direct result of their actions as possible. As much as truly necessary, I keep my children safe from harm, but when I actively try to protect them, and they are doing something that could get them hurt but not in a permanent way, I may let them get hurt after my 2nd or 3rd attempt to dissuade/ distract them fails so that they see what I was trying to protect them from. It doesn’t always help them understand that the next time I try to dissuade them may also have to do with their safety, but it does teach them better than I ever could that falling off of a chair hurts, or that the oven emits hot air and NONE of its open spaces are for touching…. etc.
I am working myself out of a job, so I want to parent a little like a coach: coming alongside my children and showing them how we do the right things, and helping them practice them over and over until they have got it.
Coaching requires active participation and praise for the wins, and encouragement with tweaking for the struggles. In these toddler years, play times are where the biggest struggles are coming out, so what that is currently looking like is keeping my kids in arms reach during the majority of play time interactions. This allows me to offer prevention instead of having to put out fires after someone gets hurt. Instead of having to punish my child for hitting, I can be close enough to see that look in her eye or hear the tone of her voice that tells me her emotions are going to a place where she might feel like getting violent. And when I see it coming, I can put a hand on her arm and ask her how she is feeling now, and help her talk the issue through rather than just going nuts on her brother. This has been working WONDERS in even just a few days time! After just 48 hours of my practicing this, she started to try to hold herself back from hitting where prior to that, she would have wailed on her brother and not been the slightest bit remorseful!
I have come a long way in my journey toward parenting my children gently. My choice not to spank my children arose out of many things: a distinction that most “spanking” was actually just a bad cover up for hitting because most of it came out of rage or a desire to seek justice for myself against my children (horrible truth to recognize), a recognition that punishment is not part of the Kingdom I have come to believe in since I have accepted Christ and the punishment He took for me… and if I am going to parent in a way that shows my children who God is, then punishment cannot be part of that story (please understand punishment and consequences are not the same as consequences can be something that happens as a direct result of behavior but can be a wonderful teacher for my children).
In these toddler stages, I was struggling desperately to know how to manage my children’s behaviors! My oldest especially seemed so angry and selfish all the time and I didn’t know what to do! I felt like I was failing her. I knew how to be the mom I wanted to be up til she turned about 3 months old. Haha, after that point, I felt like I was constantly just experimenting and hoping for the best. And up til she hit about 18 months and started showing signs of having a mind of her own, she seemed good with that. But then the next 18 months were crazy and I just could not seem to find a good groove for us. Every day, she would wake up and I would never know what mood she was going to give me, and it felt like her mood completely ran our days! If she was in a good mood, we would all have a good day. If she was in a bad mood, I just wanted to go back to bed and make us all do the same, but she refused so we all had a bad day.
Now that I am staying physically close to her, I am finding ways to engage with her first thing every morning and help her dial into that better mood- I am finding what needs she is expressing so that she can turn her mood around before the morning gets too far in with the whiny voice and annoyance! She is more affectionate toward me, offering me kisses, calling me kind, saying she loves to be with me, even making more eye contact… It’s sad to say these were not very common things before. It has only been a couple of weeks of my actively doing this, but I am already so pleased with the results, so I had to share.
I would love to answer questions about these things and engage in a bigger conversation about this topic. If you are looking for solutions to your parenting issues, let’s journey together! We all want what is best for our kids and no 2 families are exactly alike- so I know my approach isn’t for everyone, but I’d love to know what is working for you and what resources I can point you to for struggles you may be trying to overcome with your littles!