From the time I started thinking about having children I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. But I was not prepared what a steep learning curve parenting would be for me. From the beginning I was having (creating) control battles with my toddlers. I think this happens to a lot of parents who are successful and used to being able to accomplish something if they work hard enough at it. No matter how hard I tried, my children wouldn’t behave how I thought they should. Parenting was not what I expected.
My frustrations increased as our family grew. I was wholly unprepared for the “terrible twos.” I was constantly aggravated and impatient with the crying and outbursts. The force of my anger really took me by surprise. I was not an angry person in general – I wasn’t the type to get upset at other drivers or easily angered by my husband or family. I could not believe how angry I felt (and how quickly that anger went from 0 to 60). It was very unpleasant and a little frightening.
I realize now that I had pretty unrealistic expectations – I thought my children’s behavior was bad and wrong. I was preoccupied with negative thoughts and truly convinced that other parents were not going through the same things. I remember feeling impatient and irrationally upset much of the time.
It’s difficult for me to write about this period because I wish I had been a better parent from the beginning. I don’t know why I was so off the mark initially, but I want to share this story to say that people can change and learn better parenting skills, and that understanding a better approach to children truly does make parenting so much more enjoyable. When I think back on this time, I am filled with gratitude that I found the “better way” and learned how and what to do to enjoy my children. Since I have learned how to do it right, parenting has been the greatest joy of my life. I feel so positively toward my children, and so successful in my efforts. They have turned out to be great kids and that makes me so proud.
So what did I do to change? There were a few different factors, of course, and it actually took YEARS before I was really a changed person. I read a book called You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. It’s not a book that everyone would enjoy, but it really spoke to me. It is all about thinking positively and taking responsibility for your situation (rather than blaming someone else). I worked really hard to change my internal dialogue (which was very negative) and to tell myself things that I wanted to be true (such as, “You are a patient and loving mother.”) I had about 20 of these statements that I would repeat every day, multiple times a day. I had signs all over the house reminding me to smile and get over things quickly and react positively.
I read some new parenting books to get ideas and strategies. Some of them didn’t work so well for me, but I found one book, Smart Love, that really opened my eyes to loving parenting. The authors focus on having realistic expectations of children and treating them kindly (like human beings!). This book and You Can Heal Your Life really did change my life. I learned how to deal with my own issues and how to parent proactively.
You will notice throughout this website that I’m not a fan of punishment. I focus a lot more on positive reinforcement and teaching correct behavior. Partly that is because the research shows this is more effective parenting, but it is also partly because for me, punishment was associated with anger. When I felt punishment was warranted and as I administered it, my anger was always through the roof. So I was so happy to see that I could avoid punishments, for the most part. (You will come to see that avoiding punishments does not mean you are a pushover or a softy. You can be firm in your guidelines and structure without getting angry or punishing. This website will teach you how to do that.)
This is not to say I was a perfect parent – as I said, the changes were incremental and took years. There were a lot of moments of unnecessary anger and frustration during those years. But I knew I was improving, and I knew I could keep working at it. I felt so relieved when I was able to identify an overall parenting philosophy. It gave me great comfort that even when I didn’t know what to do in that particular (difficult) moment, I knew I had a general plan and that I was doing a lot of things right. For me that was so crucial. I wanted to create this website to share the information I’ve learned over the years and help you create your own overall philosophy. I wanted to help others find the joy in parenting that I have found.