Since becoming a mother parenting on the whole has been enjoyable. I love the time I get to spend with my children and they are truly to of my best companions. I don’t dare say it has been easy every single day, that there hasn’t been moments where I want to tear my hair out, hide out in the bathroom and I have most certainly on numerous occasions questioned my suitability to be looking after another living being. Yet for the most part each day I go to bed with a smile on my face loving my little cherubs and feeling accomplished, whole and all be it a little exhausted from a day well worth living.
This week being the exception.
As the battles of will, boundary pushing and cheek have reached a new high in our home, illness has also taken hold and my stress levels have been on the rise. More nights than not, I have ended up lying in bed not only exhausted but entirely deflated wondering how I will get through another day of feet stomping, arm crossing and the phrase “No, I don’t want to!”. I’ve been Left feeling upset and disappointed in myself for raising my voice… well okay shouting (god forgive me), more times than I care to admit, ranted and lectured to no avail. I could hear my voice droning on repeating myself over and over and yet the situation remained the same. It was clear each time not only was I not successful in correcting the behaviour I was failing to model the values and behaviours I wish my children will adopt and develop as they grow.
I desire for our family to reside peacefully in an environment where conflict is resolved gently, where arguments and anger are replaced by open discussions, understanding, compassion and compromise. A home full of love, laughter and equal respect between adults and youth and I recognised in order to achieve that vision, as with any vision, the change has to start with me.
Yet we remained fixed in a truly horrible cycle.
As always I turned to the Quran for some direction and I found my heart softening but I was still tentative on what my exact next steps should be so I headed to the land of free knowledge, the internet and stumbled across a wonderful animated video by one of my favourite Islamic speakers, Nouman Ali Khan (you can it watch here). The video itself comes across as if it is intended more for fathers but I think the advice given should be valuable to anybody who is raising children. The two most poignant points that reached deep within me were these:
- Give your children your time whilst they are young.
Being to busy to play or having a lack of interest in the things that excite little M at the moment have been common pitfalls of mine. Role Playing with Thomas Trains every morning for the past year and a half has become a real bore to me and trying to muster up enthusiasm is difficult but when I do join in with passion it makes the world of difference to M. I can tell he feels loved, valued and heard. He Is always much calmer and open afterwards. Little M is the most social being I know he thrives of positive interactions with people of all ages and it is that attention that often brings out the very best in him. Since I am one of the individuals he spends the most time with and depends upon highly for interaction it’s important that interaction is as positive, energetic and engaging as possible. Guilty as charged putting housework, stopping A from doing something he shouldn’t or other daily distractions are often put above simple play with M so I should and will be prioritising that child led play a lot more.
2. Have ‘sabr’ – Find beauty, have patience and persevere.
As Khan says and as every parent will have learnt at some point or another “sometimes yelling at your children will make things worse”. It certainly doesn’t inject joy and happiness into the home. Stopping to recognise the beauty within your children when you are finding their behaviour most challenging can really help you to gain some perspective and help you to lighten your heart before you react. It will be my aim to breath, count to 10 and find the positive before I respond in the future.
So now I have two concrete things to work on but as I am a fan of threes I was delighted when another arrow flew straight at my heart today. I was coming by to start writing this post when the words “You Talk To Much” – (Post by A Homeschool Mom) jumped out at me from the screen. The defensive part of me cried “What? No. I don’t!” but of course my critical half stopped backed up and said “You know you’ve been annoyed by your own voice a lot with all your lecturing lately. Maybe you should hear this lady out!”. Now of course I know the post wasn’t aimed directly at me but oh boy did it hit another nail on the head so…
3. Stop Talking and Just Listen.
Everybody needs to know their voice is being hear which is especially true when it comes to little people with huge emotions. Young children aren’t always able to articulate their feelings in a concise manner and sometime as adults when we are too busy talking or thinking we can miss those subtle or not so subtle cues and ways into our children’s minds and hearts.
Children who feel unheard, out of control, unloved, forgotten or low priority will no doubt find a way to make themselves heard, seen and listened to and often when a parents not tuned in the only way to do that is to do the things which will elicit the biggest response. Usually those things are behaviours less favoured by parents and usually result in the child getting into trouble being reprimanded lectured and thus leading them to feel even more out of touch with their loved ones. The cycle has to be broken and since we as parents and adults are the ones who have the ability to recognise and rationalise the cycle it is down to us to break it.
And so, I have been reminded that the responsibility to break the cycle lies with me. Next time little M stomps his foot, folds his arms and claims he “doesn’t want to” do x, y or z I will not meet him with the same hostility and stubbornness that he shows me. I will instead give him all the time he needs, breath and count to 10, get down to his level, ask him a question and sit back and listen hoping that together we can resolve the issue peacefully and amicably and even if the results are not immediate I will try to have patience and persevere. I will be gentle, kind and forgiving.
I will lead out.