Parenting Is The New Wild West.

Y’all.

I cannot be the only one out here that birthed a sassy little princess and discovered, a few years in, that I everything I thought I knew about raising a little girl is useless and I’m kind of just winging it over here.

Right? Tell me I’m not the only one.

I grew up in a loving home with both parents. I love them dearly and agree with most of their parenting choices, but man. Now that I’m staring stubbornness in the face daily, I also understand so many of their parenting behaviors. For me, that means challenging myself to pause before I respond with my gut reaction.

In case it’s not really obvious, my gut reaction has a lot to do with my flash-in-the-pan temper. I get that from my daddy. He was heaps of fun and an absolutely devoted and incredibly loving father, but when confronted with something that caught him the wrong way, that temper… well, he could set up a roar like a wounded bear. It was flash-in-the-pan anger. Quick to flare and quick to end in hugs (especially after the tears, because those cut him deep!). But it branded me with the same type of reactivity. He wasn’t the only one; I didn’t know his mama (she passed away when I was an infant) but stories I’ve heard suggest she had a short fuse, too.

I’m not judging, it’s just the reality of generations of feisty temperaments. I have one of those, myself, but I refuse to make it an excuse.

It’s not ‘just my personality’. Sure, it’s got a lot to do with that. But temper is reactive, and it is absolutely my responsibility to moderate it. Even when I’m running late and my kid is screaming and kicking while I dress her and I’m absolutely at the end of my patience. My temper shouldn’t be my daughter’s burden to bear. She’s got her own temper to deal with. And I refuse to pass this trait on to my kid without giving her the tools she needs to balance it. I stumbled across an article awhile back with a great list of daily choices that we can make as parents to do better for our babies, and I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty timely today.

Here’s a few that resonated with me:

Listen

This seems so simple, but it’s not. Listen to hear what your child is saying, not just to mitigate or negotiate. Empathetic listening isn’t only for grownups, and this challenge is a good reminder of that!

Be Present

I can’t even count the times I’ve zoned out on my kid. Whether I’m checking emails, checking off a to-do list, thinking about an embarrassing conversation from six years ago, or thinking about a project or plan… I’m guilty. I know that 100% commitment to our children’s every waking moment isn’t a reality, but I can make our time together meaningful. I can be present, be engaged, and give her the gift of my full attention.

After all, it’s what we expect of them, isn’t it?

Say Yes

Y’all, I STRUGGLE with this. I’m used to commandeering situations. I’m a decision maker and will readily admit that as much as I value and respect those around me, it doesn’t always occur to me that they might have other opinions.

I’m tryin’, y’all, but your girl ain’t perfect.

So I’m QUICK to say no if it’s something that wasn’t part of the plan. Obviously, there are situations where NO is appropriate and should be accepted as the final answer. But are there times I say ‘no’ when I could definitely say ‘yes’ and the world would keep on turning? Um, yeah. For example, when EV picks out a different outfit to wear – usually when we’re running late and always when I’ve already laid everything out for the week. It’s tough for me to say yes.

But I recognize that she needs me to demonstrate some trust in her decision making if I want her develop into a confident, independent young lady.

Slow Down

I’m 90-to-nothin’ (or is it nothin’-to-90?) most days, kid in tow and hair flying every direction. Our schedule is fast paced, and my must-finish list never seems to end.

I was rushing EV into the car between stops the other day when this hit me. I was frustrated because she stopped and bent over in the grass, ignoring me calling her to hurry and hop in the car. It wasn’t more than 30 seconds, but my temper immediately identified her dawdling as willful defiance.

It wasn’t. At all. She’d found the tiniest little wildflower and wanted to pick it for me. I hadn’t even noticed the flower as I rushed by, but she did. And she wanted to share it with me.

Cue the tears in my heart, y’all. I heard that message loud and clear – it’s important to stop and smell the roses with my girl, even for just a few minutes.

Practice Patience

I mean, the good Lord knows that parents have a plethora of opportunities for practicing patience, right?

But it’s still not my strong suit. And I can’t expect my 4-year-old to exhibit patience and grace if I’m not demonstrating it for her.

Ask For Help

There’s no magical milestone that we pass as adults that eliminates our need for help from others, y’all. And there’s no prize for refusing to admit that we need help.

This point speaks to me in a couple of ways; firstly, it reminds me that there is a huge, HUGE need for parents to admit when they feel like they’re drowning. Mental wellness is important, because a calm and balanced parent has the tools he or she needs to, well, parent.

But our kids need to know that we value their input, too. They need to know that grownups can rely on others, too. It’s okay to ask for them for help – and to exercise that patience we talked about earlier when the help isn’t exactly what we had in mind.  

Play

I am…. Not good at this one. I make concerted efforts to sit with my girl and play barbies or babies or farmer’s market, but my mind is anywhere but there. I’m buzzing with to-do lists and other things I could be doing that are more productive, and honestly doing more letting-her-play-while-I’m-in-the-room.

Play is important in the development of children – I won’t get into the copious amounts of research on this, but it’s absolutely integral for their achievement of certain social, emotional, and physical milestones.

If it’s something that contributes to my girl’s overall wellness and development, it’s a good idea to be present in the moment and take the time to play with her.

Not Expect Perfection

Y’all.

Why do we expect perfection from our kids and give ourselves grace for our own less-than-stellar track records of perfect behaviors?

This is humbling, but true. My daughter deserves every bit of grace I can give, because others have given it to me when I wasn’t deserving.

Be Careful With My Words

I can still remember some of those flash-in-the-pan moments with my dad, and especially remember the way I felt when he was having one of his bear-with-a-sore-paw moments, bellowing his displeasure for everyone to hear.

My words are soaking into my sweet girl’s very soul, becoming the inner dialogue she will hear for the rest of her life. That’s a HUGE responsibility to shoulder, but its one that I will gladly take on if it means I can choose words that will strengthen her, and not tear her down.

Put My Phone Down

This one is so relevant, y’all. I’d consider myself pretty good about separating work and social media time from my time at home, but I’m not perfect at this. Sure, there are times spent together when I don’t touch my phone at all, but there are also days that I still pick up my phone when I’m supposed to be spending time with my girl. At her age, it’s easy to pop on a movie or show to distract her and sneak in a few minutes of scrolling time.

But it’s a horrible habit to model for her. And I want to do better.

Use Manners

Express gratitude. Use kind words. Be generous. Be gracious. Be loving. Promote peace and goodness. Practice self-control.

See, we all know the fruits of the Spirit are important to cultivate, but we focus a little too much on practicing those on the people outside our homes. It’s easy to forget that the little people living in your house are the ones who need you to exhibit these the most.

Stand My Ground

It’s not a well-kept secret that I’m just about the most stubborn person on the planet. I know my shortcomings, and, well, this is one of them.

Although I’m not through trying to convince everyone who will listen that being strong-willed is actually a positive thing, so, you know, you’re welcome to see me anytime for that little TED talk.

But even with my donkey-sized stubborn streak, I find myself wanting to capitulate when the tantrums are drawn out. Especially when J steps in to argue EV’s case (co-parenting with someone completely different than you is a c-h-a-l-l-e-n-g-e, y’all).

In moments like that, I have to weigh out if the decision is important, and if so, remain firm. YES, you want to finish this show, but your early morning alarm is still going to ring, and you’ll be tired and struggle throughout your day. So it’s still a NO from me.

Validate Feelings

Shhhhh. You’re ok. You’re fine. Stop crying, it’s not a big deal.

Sound familiar?

We all want to be acknowledged. Every single human has an innate desire to be understood. And believe it or not, our little monsters are entirely human and hard-wired with that same desire.

Why not try a big hug and something like ‘I understand that X makes you feel really sad. I’m sorry that you’re having a tough time with those sad feelings. Can I help?’

Be A Good Example

This one ties in really well to the point about manners, but as our kids get older and more perceptive, they’re going to catch us on the heart issues, too. Please and thank you are only so effective when they’re coming from the mouth of a parent that you can’t respect because he or she lies, cheats, or steals. Our kids are learning from us, and unfortunately, the statistics are much more in favor of them turning out exactly like our worst habits than they are of them steering clear and taking the high road on their own.

They’re not born knowing how to live with integrity, y’all. It’s our job to instill that in them.

Not Yell

Another point that ties to previous ones, but this one is such a big thing for me. I come from a family of loud mouths – we yell without even realizing we’ve raised our voice. Mostly to be heard over the rest of the (yelling) clan at the dinner table, but when you’re already in the habit of raising your voice and an impossible tantrum pops up, well, you’re that much more likely to tap into it and holler at your kid in anger.

It’s a hard habit to break, but it’s important. Firm, kind, respectful tones, just like the ones you want them to use with you.

Choose

Whether or not your baby was planned, you are a parent. You can choose to abandon that responsibility, or you can choose to embrace the good, the bad, and the beautiful and parent your heart out every single day.

Choose to be that parent. Choose to break the generational cycles that might have broken you as a child. Choose the legacy of love and kindness that your babies will carry into future generations.

I know I’m not a parenting expert, but I hope some of these resonated with you like they did with me. Have a wonderful week, friends!

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