A Born Again Parent
Parenting can be a risky business. It can throw all your conceptions about who you think you are and how you believe interpersonal relationships function. You can be transported from a pinnacle of pure joy to utter exasperation in the matter of moments.
It is a job that few have studied and yet we as parents are expected to be the primaries on the job. We believe that we are equipped for the job because we want to be parents as we were once kids, but this wasn’t enough training at least in my case. I went into parenthood fully ready in my mind to enjoy and raise my children, but it didn’t take long to figure out that I wasn’t prepared for the task and was taking its toll quickly. I realized I was headed for a long journey where each day I battled with what to do with two children having a lot more energy me.
Fortunately I had friends who were also in the same boat and didn’t seem to be fairing any better. It was then I found a class on parenting and it helped me pull the strings together and gave me a plan.
I have spent more years in college then I care to admit, but I was never so ready to take instruction as in the class I went to on parenting. It was held in a home of a mother of three teens and we “students” were all parents of kids under the age of 12. We all looked rather beaten down and the time to sit, drink some tea and not have a child interrupting every sentence was our common thread.
More so we all knew that we did not know what we were doing with our children and were battle worn. I was ready to shed my false confidence in myself as an effective mother and honestly gave the training a try. What was nice was that the training was based on a theory of a child psychologist and it was laid out in an easy to relate to book. It became my reference book that took me through many years establishing the ground rules for our family relationships. What I didn’t realize was that I was going to go through so many changes and the effort it took was exhilarating.
Rudolf Driekurs book, Children the Challenge, spelled everything out. His main premise is that children want to belong to a group, the family, and will go about it in different ways that can contribute to family life or on the other extreme they can cause it to be a nightmare.
Each child has their own way of going about getting the attention they need. It is your job as a parent to figure out what makes your child tick. It was actually rather freeing to be told to take a step back from my children and study them as individuals apart from our interactions. By this time my children were four and two and had already set patterns of relating, many of which drove me nuts. I actually kept a journal as though I were an outside scientist observing their actions. I stepped out of the fray and it helped me to get some perspective on our family life and these two little individuals that at the time seemed so overwhelming.
With the help of the many examples in the book I realized that my children were seeking their place in the family in different irritating ways and I was responding to them in such a way that it was destined to continue. Driekurs premise is; you can only change yourself and the children will respond. I found out as I tried things it didn’t take long for things to begin changing. Children are so good at reading situations and adjusting to them that it was fun to try things. In a short time problems that once grated on me began to disappear.
I learned that I needed to think and many times not to do what I would naturally be inclined to in situations. For example when the kids would begin an argument with one another instead of coming to the rescue and figuring it out I would take the first exit to the bathroom or even a closet. I still remember when each child had a friend over and one of the girls said, “Let’s tell your mom on the boys,” and my daughter sighed saying, “She won’t do anything just tell us to work it out ourselves.” They continued to play and all was well. I had to laugh.
Like most parents I use to give attention to difficult behavior. Instead I was taught to encourage and give the extra attention through teaching them new skills. The kids loved the attention and becoming more self- sufficient.
I stopped myself from nagging or yelling and would instead get up and go toward them to correct a behavior. Many times they would stop before I even got there. It took me time and self -control to work as Driekurs instructed, but when I saw the results I realized it just made sense and it worked.
Each week I would work on something specific and even tape things on the frig to remind myself how I needed to think and respond, (or not respond), to the given situations that continually repeat themselves in family life. In time I realized that I was actually managing family life and leading my children rather then responding to their antics. I obviously slipped up on things but with constant effort to train myself I actually had a parenting method and that made it fun.
My children did get trained although there were times I would slip back into old patterns and so would they, but at least I knew I needed to get back to “Driekurs” and it would repair quickly.
So if you are in the throws of parenting or know someone who is don’t fret because there is practical help and it starts with a book, requires some personal changes and ends with good family relationships.
Luanne is one of my daughters and her experiences were many years ago. The four year old is presently a senior at NYU and her two year old is a s0phmore at Columbia University.