Your child’s behaviour is NOT a reflection of your parenting skills. Now, let that sink in for a minute….
It sounds a bit like a cop out, right? Maybe it sounds like those new age parents that let their kids run free and “coddle” them.
For a long time we have been so focused on our children’s behaviour and using that to either validate us or shame us about our parenting skills. But, the thing is, it is not actually an accurate reflection of our parenting skills.
You know what is?
YOUR behaviour IS a reflection of your parenting skills.
This post has actually been a little while in coming. I have been having a LOT of thoughts on this subject now for quite some time. So, let me take you back to where this seed was planted.
I was driving home from my local shopping centre, feeling absolutely drained, embarrassed and overwhelmed.
Miss 4 had had an emotional meltdown of EPIC proportions… even for her. There was screaming, scratching, head banging and it got to the point where a security guard came over to me to address the situation. She also happened to be screaming out at the top of her lungs that I was not her mother and to let her go!
Of course, I felt like a failure.
I beat myself up in my head, going over the situation again and again trying to work out what I did wrong. Mother’s guilt tells me that I am the beginning, the middle and the end of ALL problems to do with my kids!
After all, if I couldn’t GET my kid to behave, what kind of parent was I?
But thankfully there was this little seed of doubt….
Her twin brother, who has been raised EXACTLY the same way she has was pretty much perfectly behaved throughout this same episode.
So this left me in a bit of a quandary.
I was receiving information that didn’t compute with the belief I held that my children’s behaviour was a reflection of my parenting skills (or lack thereof). But, even so, I still continued to beat myself up.
However, that little seed started to germinate over time.
A few weeks later I was driving to a play date, and we’d already had a rough morning, even to the point where I was wondering if I should cancel. After all, there was a high emotional load, and that is not a great way to start a play date. I extrapolated to where this could very well go, and I was thinking about how people would judge me because of my children’s behaviour, and hoping that I had done everything “right” to set my kids up for success given the circumstances.
And then it hit me!
The way my kids behaved was not actually the issue and the indication of my parenting skills.
The way I RESPONDED to their behaviour was.
It was bit of a lightbulb moment.
Prior to having kids, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the type of parent that I wanted to be. Like any one, I wanted to be a “good” parent. But what that looks like for me might be different to you.
In my mind, as a good parent:
- I was going to discipline (teach) my kids, rather than punish them
- I was going to model good behaviour and emotional regulation
- I was not going to hit my kids, and I would do my best not to yell (as this is really an indication of my feelings/frustration being out of control more than anything else)
- I was going to instill values in them, and bring them up to be “good” people
- I was going to value kindness, creativity, empathy and growth over academics and/or talent
- I was going to appreciate them for the individual that they are, not try to force them into some mould of who I wanted/expected them to be
- I was not going to use fear to control my kids
And you know what, mostly I was acting in congruence with my idea of being a “good” parent.
Even if my child/ren lost their everloving crap and behaved terribly, I was prepared to be the calm to their chaos; I would lovingly guide their behaviour; I wouldn’t hit, yell, degrade or demean them; I would separate their behaviour from WHO they are as a person.
So, I headed off to the play date in a much better frame of mind.
Of course, we had some hiccups on the day, but I remained focused on MY response. I was going to act in accordance with my idea of how a “good” parent would act, and that would be enough.
Yet, that belief that our kids’ behaviour is a reflection of our parenting is a belief that still holds some sway.
I still question myself, doubt myself and get embarrassed.
I still feel judged and self-conscious when I’m out and about and one or the other of my children behave poorly.
In fact two weeks ago I left our OT’s office feeling completely defeated, drained and embarrassed after an incident.
Long story short, Miss 4 had had a HUGE week. She had walked more in one afternoon than she ever has before and that was completely drained, and this then had a negative flow on effect for the rest of the week.
The result was her flinging the chairs in the room as far as she could, dramatically sweeping everything off the desk, scratching my neck and face, and repetitively trying to run away.
I was MORTIFIED!
It’s definitely not the first time that she has had a major meltdown during therapy, but it was the worst it had been in a while.
And as it was going on, I felt shame and embarrassment wash over me.
I let the therapist know that it would be better for her to address it as I knew at this point any interaction from me would likely escalate the situation, no matter what I did. Eventually we made it out of the office, only for the behaviour to continue until eventually she fell asleep on the way home.
Meanwhile I felt like I’d gone 5 rounds with Muhammed Ali.
I was close to tears, feeling defeated and just wondering what the hell I had done wrong, and what I could do differently.
I wondered should I write an email to the therapist apologising. I kept playing everything over again in my mind.
I also lovingly held my daughter when she woke up. I focused on connection and reducing her emotional and sensory load.
I cancelled a fun play date the next day because I knew that she must also be feeling completely drained and overwhelmed, and it was more important for her to rest and get back to the green zone.
I spent quality time with her and remained the calm to her chaos.
And, it paid off.
By the time the end of the week came around, we went to a friend’s birthday party and she was able to cope with everything going on and was really well behaved.
Cut to yesterday – our first time back at therapy after “the incident”
I was still feeling embarrassed and ashamed, so the first thing I did was apologise to the therapist.
And how she responded was HUGELY powerful for me.
“Don’t be silly” she said. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about”
And she said it with such genuine feeling that it finally sunk in.
My daughter’s behaviour IS NOT a reflection of my parenting skills – THE WAY I RESPOND IS.
I had put my daughter’s needs first. I had ensured her needs were met. I had remained calm during a highly stressful situation, and not made the situation worse. I made sure that I focused on letting her know that her behaviour was what I was addressing, not who she is as a person. When things calmed down I guided her future behaviour and let her express her emotions.
Finally, I hope, I’m at a point where I have replaced the belief that my parenting skills are reflected by my children’s behaviour.
My parenting skills are reflected by my own actions and how I interact with my children, and respond to their behaviour.
So, mumma, if you are out and about and your children are behaving poorly, know that I see you. I know what it’s like to feel embarrassed and self conscious and to beat yourself up, thinking that you are completely failing at this parenting gig. But you know what, you will only fail at this parenting gig if you give up on your kids.
So, hold your head up high. Judge yourself based on your reaction and response to their behaviour. Judge yourself on your relationship with your child. Judge yourself on the way you speak to your child.
But, please join me and give up this idea that your children’s behaviour is a reflection of your parenting. It’s not a helpful belief and it isn’t accurate, so be like Elsa….
LET IT GO