If you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that I started off as a not so peaceful parent. I had anger and impulse issues. I was an angry Daddy. I was a scary Daddy. Yes, I was also a loving Daddy. But overall, I knew that I wasn’t providing the best, most stable and loving environment possible. I wanted to do better.
I eventually got some counselling, started figuring some things out and started to get control of myself. It did not happen over night and there were many set backs. It’s not easy breaking long established behavior patterns, or ways of thinking.
One of the strangest things I noticed after becoming more peaceful and patient was that it didn’t feel much better. In fact, there were times when it felt worse. This confused me. Where was the pay off? Shouldn’t the sun be shining through the clouds upon me? Should not angels descend from the heavens to give me high-fives? Why is my family not in awe with my newfound awesomeness? No. This was a personal journey, with not much fan-fare.
Still, I was confused. Why didn’t I feel better? For example, let’s say that in a tough moment I chose a better more positive way to be with my son. Let’s say that instead of yelling and/or threatening, I breathed. Let’s say that I didn’t lash out. Instead, let’s say that in response to a “tantrum” or “bad behaviour”, I paused, and observed. Maybe, if I was feeling especially skillful, I would be able to make a comment about how I thought he might be feeling, “Hey, looks like you are upset that we didn’t get to go to the movies today.” Let’s just say… that I even had the wherewithal to empathize with him, “I get it, you really wanted to see the movie. The lego movie looks awesome. I’m sorry it didn’t work out today. Let’s decide on another time we can see it”
Let’s. Just. Say…That all of this worked!! The “tantrum” stoped, he calmed down and by all accounts I have a big win. Well, this has happened. And, I remember that it didn’t feel that good. Strange. It felt a bit robotic and unsatisfying. All of my instincts were telling me to do something else. Part of me just saw a “bratty” kid in front of me “whining and complaining”. Part of me saw a “disrespectful”, “ungrateful kid” who needed to “control himself”. Part of me, wanted to unleash the wrath upon him. To lose control with a good old fashion screaming lecture about this and that. For good measure, I could have thrown him into his room. “That would have felt good. That would have felt right. That would have been satisfying”… is what I thought. But, I didn’t act on it. I stayed in control. By all accounts, I did the right thing. But strangely it felt incomplete. This came as a surprise to me. I did the right thing and I don’t feel good about it. My programming ran deep.
This is an FYI to those parents trying to leave behind an aggressive/impulsive style of parenting. It’s not all high-fives and sweet recognition. And sometimes, it’s a grind. I have to be honest. There is no point in glorifying it. Changing my parenting behavior was hard, and it’s still hard. That’s the truth of it. No, magic bullets. I just wanted to mention this in case anyone else was feeling this way. But changing negative programming and breaking hurtful habits is important so don’t give up on doing the right thing. Parenting is a long-game. We are doing this for other reasons than a quick fix in the moment. In trying to be more peaceful, we are trading in impulsivity and immediate gratification for something that is going to be better for our kids (and us) in the long run.
* edit: after trading in that impulsively for self regulation, I can say now, more than a couple years later, that I feel more in control. And, feeling in more in control feels better. I’m prouder of myself and how I’m raising my kids.