Also featured on https://blog.sivanaspirit.com/mf-gn-social-emotional-adulting/
As an adolescent Montessori educator and mother of a toddler and newborn, I often find
myself going back to the question: how can we do what we need to do for ourselves to be who we need to be for the children in our lives? Oftentimes I get the question of how to cope with a particular behavior and my answer always goes back to us, the adults. We can best cope with a behavior when we have first of all taken care of ourselves and secondly come from an empowered and conscious philosophy that also includes dealing with our own social-emotional well-being.
1) A Familiar Scenario
You are exhausted from being up with your children, stressed out by a situation at work, and feeling extremely resentful about both. How well do you think you are going to deal with a toddler tantrum? And then you don’t deal well with said tantrum and spend the rest of the time feeling guilty and beating yourself up over how you dealt with the situation, and thus reactivating an old story that you tell yourself about how you are a failure at life and parenting; because of course in these scenarios, the more dramatic the better is how our overactive minds work.
Sounds familiar? We have all been there and it’s time to stop the vicious cycle for both ourselves and the children in our lives. Here are a few tips to get you started.
2) Be Intentional
In everything that you do – time with your children, words that you speak, time that you spend working – make sure that you have a purpose in all that you do and that you unitask for that given time. In our over-digitized society where we value multitasking and the hustle culture, it is rare that we carve out intentional time.
3) Schedule ‘You’ Time
Even if it is just 10 minutes alone in the car in intervals or a solo walk around the neighborhood. Maybe a quick phone call with a friend. I also recommend the Voxer walkie-talkie app, which is sad that in this day and age as we don’t always have time to sit and have a two-way conversation. Voxer is a great and convenient alternative. Or maybe you can start listening to a favorite song or meditation. Put yourself back in your schedule.
4) Practice what Amy McCready calls Mind, Body, Soul Time
How often do you give your child your full attention? And I’m not talking about when you’re “playing” with them but running through your to-do list in your head or checking your phone. Positive Parenting Expert Amy McCready recommends even giving 20 minutes a day, which can be in two 10-minute increments, completely to your child on an activity of their choosing. This will bring both of you joy and cultivate a stronger relationship. It will also help combat some of that ugly guilt that we mentioned earlier.
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I have been on a huge unplugging kick lately and it has been better for me personally, as well as for my children. Do our kids deserve to look at the back of phones? Unplugging helps us emotionally for so many reasons, but most importantly, it sends a message to our kids that they matter and get our full presence. Of course, there are times when we need to be plugged in, but I want to refer back to the first tip: be intentional with all that you do. And when I say unplug, I am talking about a lot of the mindless social media scrolling or the need to respond to a text or email right at that second.
I understand that most parents feel that social media helps them relax and connect with others, but really consider what you’re doing and how you’re spending your time. Social media scrolling can lead to the comparison game and distracted behavior. I recommend carving out a set amount of time daily for your social media or plugged-in use. The Moment app from Apple has been extremely helpful for me in tracking my own screen time.
6) Deal with Your Demons
Kids push our buttons. It’s part of their job description. We can combat this by doing the inner work that is necessary for our emotional well-being. Dr. Maria Montessori, a true revolutionary, understood this concept psychologically and thus said that it was the work of the educator to go through their own journey of self to be who they needed to be for children. This can be done in a variety of ways: therapy, reflective journaling, coaching, energy healing etc.
In these cases, I like to go by the adage, “Name it to tame it.” Be honest about what’s coming up for you in a safe space, even if it is just the confines of your journal. This is so that you can clear it and there will be fewer emotions attached when those buttons are pushed; or maybe even fewer buttons to push in the first place.
7) Follow the Four Agreements
Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements is instrumental in our interactions with people in general, and I have found that I can apply it to my work with both my personal children and those that I teach:
Be Impeccable with your word: Our words can hurt or help, so make sure that you say what you mean and mean what you say to your children and also to yourself. Self-talk dictates a lot of what we believe. Remember that our self-talk comes from somewhere else and what we say to our children could be a part of their inner voice and future self-talk.
Don’t take things personally: Our children are on their own journeys and have their own free will. Not everything that they do is a reflection of us or the way we parent. Go back to dealing with your demons. Clear your own stuff and understand that we don’t own their emotions or actions. We can only control how we react to them.
Don’t make assumptions: We all know that adage when you assume you make an a$$ of you and me. This is as much true with our children as it is with us. Our brains are hardwired to make negative assumptions as well. If there is something that your child is doing, ASK don’t ASSUME. When we come from a place of inquiry versus accusation, it is always better received.
Always do your best: Perfection doesn’t exist. Just get that out of your head. As long as you are doing your best as a parent, you are sending the message to your child that that kind of behavior is valued. We are human and embracing and accepting your human flaws but striving to always do better is one of the best gifts that you can give to yourself and to your children.
8) Consider the Big Picture
There is something comforting in knowing that in much of parenthood, everything is temporary; all the stages, the good and the bad. That is why it goes by so quickly, so savor the moments. Invite them in, the good and the bad. “You never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Someday they will all just be a memory, and I hope that the memory that you have of parenting your children isn’t one of guilt or regret.
My parents have always told me that they enjoy being grandparents so much because they are not in the thick of it anymore. When you’re “in the trenches”, it is hard not to have tunnel vision, but if you stop and look around and consider the big picture, you will realize that nothing is as bad as it seems and it too shall pass. What will remain is the relationship that you have with your child and the memories that you made along the way.
Hang in there. This is a wild and exciting ride. Be gentle with yourself and know that the fact that you are giving your time to read something like this makes you a step ahead on the social-emotional adulting scale. With anything that I write, I am speaking to myself as much as I am speaking to you, because we all need this intentional reminder. And because we deserve it and so we don’t do it with the children in our lives.