My default on the other hand is an authoritarian style of parenting. That is what I was raised with, “backhand parenting” as I like to call it, where you were parented mostly with your parents back hand.
My parents are amazing people don’t get me wrong, I’ll go into this in another post. Briefly though, as first generation immigrants here they had their hands full not knowing English, preserving their old school principles while adapting to life in modern USA, all while trying to build their business and a dignified life for their family.
The authoritarian style has a low threshold for uncertainty, allowing mistakes, receiving the child’s opinion, much less their emotional reactions and requests other than food and needing to go to the bathroom. There is little room for softening oneself to lean into the child’s experience.
The authoritarian in me can be forceful and severe. I don’t like that person. She comes out when I’m overwhelmed for many reasons: tired, hungry, feeling alone, on empty or all of the above and mixed at different proportions depending on whats going on.
The Other Parenting Style
I educated myself on alternative parenting styles before I was a mom and paired them down to the few stated above based on my values and what I’d seen and experienced up until that point. I also, thankfully, made friendships with women already practicing these styles of parenting and was able to witness what it looked like firsthand “in action”. When I became pregnant I hit the road running with plans and hundreds of hours journal writing on what I intended my parenting life to look and feel like.
Five years later in the trenches of parenting, my idealistic enthusiasm has waned and I’m humbled to say the least. The parenting style that I try to live up to, I emphasize try, the one my educated brain is well versed in, is full of ongoing communication at all times. Communication about needs of the environment, my needs, asking him his needs, talking about how we will meet these needs as a “team”. The ongoing communication is an effort for me, it’s not natural or easy.
The Daily Inner Battle
There is still hard-wiring in my brain of what “real” parenting means from my early years. It’s in me and it’s a constant effort to not give into it one choice at a time. The gentle and research-educated parent I want to be fights for head-space with that rigid authoritarian every day.
5 Ways Power Routines Have Helped Me Parent Better
My power routines have helped quiet that authoritarian in me. I’ve had my disappointments for sure, when she has dreadfully run the show, leaving me feeling like a lonely dictator at the end of the day. Thankfully though, compared to my childhood, those days are the exception and not the rule. To a great degree I’ve not repeated the stifling behavior I experienced with the help of my PR’s.
Here’s 5 ways my power routine has made the difference in my parenting
I get more bandwidth for holding discomfort in those few precious micro-seconds before a stress reaction. It allows me to breath, reflect and respond. For example bandwidth for a few more minutes past the hour of playing “cars” and following my sons minute by minute instructions on the dialogue I need to say …banging my head against the wall sounds much nicer. It’s bandwidth that avoids the hurt feelings and allows me to rein in the impulse to bolt when it is officially done, with a sigh of relief, but instead hug him while gently saying ” This was fun babe, now it’s time for mommy to do other things”.
Bandwidth to allow a few more minutes of him exploring a bush in the cold when what I really want is to speedily walk the dog and return to our cozy, warm home. It’s bandwidth when he boldly shouts he will not put on his jacket to go to school because he didn’t get to pick the clothes. What I really want to say is ”Put the dang jacket on we ARE leaving NOW” and instead I take that critical deep breath and say “I understand how frustrating it is to wear something you don’t like, last night I reminded you to pick out your clothes, instead you decided to continue playing with your legos… remember?” as he looks down to his feet. I quip back with “No worries tonight you will have that chance again” as he mutters “Ohh kaaay” under his breath as I zip up his jacket. Bandwidth….is…. my…. friend.
I experience more inner space to think new ideas and create solutions. For example when my son wants to venture into our cement floored basement with his “basement crocs” but there is seemingly no place for those shoes between the 4 ft by 3 ft square space between the fridge, basement door, house back door and cutting board island on wheels. I had been inwardly toiling as to what to do about his Croc’s that end up on the floor, get stuck under the door as you pull it open and then lunge down the basement stairs as you try to walk past them but instead shuffle them forward.
After a few days of that cooking in the back of my mind, at the end of a particularly potent power routine, when the inner chatter was quiet, the idea came. Put 2 nails into the bottom hardwood slab of the moving cutting board that faces that little space. That 12 inch by 12 inch space is unused. It’s perfect to hang his Crocs from and have them handy right as he is about to go down the basement stairs and hang back up when he is done. Taaada!!! Floor space magically uncluttered, one more micro millimeter of mental space in me free to use for other things! This happens more frequently as time goes on in that precious morning time.
3.Giving of My Best Version of Me
My cup runneth over when I’ve completed my full power routine, as a result I greet my son when he wakes up with genuine zest and loving embrace. Not to mention that if he’s having a difficult morning I have the energy to be supportive. All that only possible because I did the things that brought me to my happy place before he woke up. Since I’m the first person he see’s in the morning, he gets to start his day with that offering from me and according to a study from Ohio State University, waking up with positivity has a cascade effect into the rest of the day. I’m not surprised if that being a repetitive experience for him growing up hardwire’s his brain to start his day with those same feelings into adulthood long after I’m gone.
4.Kindness to Myself in Other Areas
The self care I give myself in the morning leaks into the rest of the day, as a result I’m more sensitive to the times my bandwidth is being stretched too far. Over the years it has become increasingly easier to give myself small doses of kindness before my old brain takes the steering wheel and acts impulsively.
A daily example: It’s 5pm and a tired me approaches my full sink of dishes just as my marathon line up of tasks to finish before my son’s sleep time flashes in my mind’s eye. Through my heavy shoulders and knotted diaphragm a clear impulse of kindness arises in me to make a pot of my favorite herbal tea with a pinch of caffeine and turn up my favorite conscious hip hop music. Once the music starts, the first few verses enter my ears, my head begins to bob and the warmth of that first sip loosens that choking knot, I’m then able to move through my tasks with swiftness, efficiency and most importantly calm. Alas I don’t reach the beloved evening story time crabby and nodding off mid sentence, instead the energy is there to give it my most animated best.
5.Slips Are Exception Not the Rule
On challenging days when life gives curve-balls and I digress to my old brain it is the exception and not the rule. The regular standard for our days is loving and gentle co-living. When the grumpy, bordering on edgy, behavior rears it’s ugly head, it’s easier to make the prompt apologies and amends actions because that environment of respect between us is there as a backdrop to our daily rhythm. Bad behavior stands out like a sore thumb in contrast to the everyday goodness between us. Delightfully apologies have come from his 4 year old side as well.
So there you have it! One more facet of the benefits of having a power routine to start your day with. Is there anything you do before your kids wake up that makes all the difference in your parenting life?