Thursday, 30 October 2008

Parenting With Love

Yesterday, Littletree started hitting me.

We had to go home after spending most of the day with a friend, but Littletree  doesn't really handle goodbyes very well. So after about an hour of trying to gently separate the girls and get in the car, I just gave up.

I said to Littletree, "I really want to go home now, and I want to get to the post office before it shuts on the way, and I'd really like you to come with me." and I started walking.

Of course she followed me, shouting that she didn't want to leave, and tried to make me come back to the friend. I took a deep breath, and said to her again, calmly, "I'm going home now and I'd be really happy if you come with me, I'm sorry it's hard for you to say goodbye to your friend"

Littletree responded by hitting me. My first reaction, which is learned from my childhood, would be to hit back. Thankfully I don't act on that response; I reminded myself to remain calm.

After the third hit, I took another deep breath, and said calmly, "I feel bad when you hit me"

Littletree hit me a fourth time, and I looked at her and said "I love you."

She sobbed once, and took my hand and walked with me to the car, and then she said she was sorry.

In that moment, I could have followed my "instincts" and smacked her, or shouted or lost my temper. It was a test of myself to look at her, with her face scrunched up angrily, reaching out to hit me, and see that she is the child I love, and she needs to feel that.

In the instant I said "I love you", it felt like someone had flicked a switch and changed the entire universe. The quality of the light changed, Littletree's face cleared, and she walked with me to the car willingly.

Now I can clearly see that when I tell her it's time to go, and she doesn't want to, she feels that I don't love her, because I'm doing something that makes her unhappy. Of course, that makes her act out, and then I react to her acting out, and it confirms her feeling unloved.

I put myself in her shoes. My mother is not letting me do something that makes me happy, and she's shouting and angry at me.

That simple action; saying "I love you", showed her that I do love her, even when she hits me, and that I'm on her side, even when we have to do things that aren't what she really wants.

Littletree was able to let go of her battling with me, because you can't fight against someone who is working with you and supporting you with love. She was able to relax, and feel sorry for hitting me, and tell me so.

We got to the car and had a nice cuddle before driving home :)

9 comments:

  1. Thank you for being so candid and admitting your impulses. I am an advocate of gentle discipline but ideals and reality don't always mesh as well as we would like. I have never hit my children but I have wanted to-I've had the impulse. Like you, I have pushed back the learned behaviors of my childhood and offered something different:love. Its funny because offering love at time like that, does not always come from a loving state. Sometimes you offer love from anger, knowing that love will come back around.

    I'm rambling now, but anyways, thanks for sharing!

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  2. I've had this with Rowanne, and the others to a lesser degree too. It really is difficult to remain calm when your child is lashing out at you (or their siblings) and tempers are high. We can't always be perfect, especially when every instinct tells you to lash out in return, but the fact that we're trying to control it is a way of teaching our kids that they too. They can see us struggling to go against our instincts and that shows them that it's not easy for us either. With time they will learn to control those feelings bit by bit and know that it's because they are loved that this is possible as our love for them stopped us from behaving in that way many times before.

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  3. oh wow - definitly something I needed to read at the moment - Mr 2.5 acting out at me because not only do I have to leave him every morning to go to work, but he is getting very close to having to share me with another little person. I will remember this next time he lashes out. Thank you.

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  4. You are, as always, an inspiration.

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  5. I linked to your blog from an MDC thread... and read this beautiful story, thanks so much for posting it. I have a 3 1/2 yr old dd and needed to hear this today.

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  6. Ah, my little sister... How great you have grown. Yes, I am happy of/for you too.

    You changed reality, with real personal power, on the fulcrum of an instant, thats something God himself is looking for...


    "His eye is roving about the earth looking for such ones..."

    There is treasure for you in heaven and you have relived some Karmic debt.

    Spiritual Aikido

    L

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  7. I love reading "success" experiences like this. It IS so hard to know what to do in those instances--even when you're in a place where you're willing and wanting to "do it right". I never thought about just relaxing and saying "I love you." What a novel idea!!

    Seriously, it's so obvious, but not, ya know? How old is your daughter, anyway? Mine is 5, and I've just been wondering how to help her in times of stress and I think this might be my answer!

    PS, I just found you via technorati search for other blogs tagged with "unconditional parenting".

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Thanks for your lovely words, witty banter and entertaining discussion :)