By: Nicki Reid, Bilingual BA
*** Trigger Warning: this blog mentions the infliction of physical violence against children, please continue to read at your own discretion. ***
Prior to having children, I always knew if I ever decided I wanted to have them that I would parent them differently than how I was raised; more specifically, I wouldn't hit or spank them. At the time, I had no idea that there were parenting styles devoted to teaching parents how to raise their children this way. I don’t recall how I came across it, but shortly after having our son, I discovered the following parenting styles: conscious parenting, gentle parenting, peaceful parenting, and positive parenting. In practice, I don’t adhere to one specific way of parenting nor do I follow any one of them rigidly. I take what resonates with me (from each style) based on where I am in my parenting journey and what my children need. I focus on treating my children as I would like to be treated, which is with respect, dignity, love, grace, patience, and compassion - after all, they are tiny humans.
Please, do not take this as me being on a high horse. I am VERY familiar with corporal punishment, I was beaten with everything under the sun, whatever was accessible; the belt, a comb, slippers, etc. My inclination to raise my children this way is based on my direct and indirect experiences. I’ve observed the toll that mental, verbal, emotional, and physical abuse takes on a child and how they adversely impact the life trajectory (unless it is acknowledged and healed). Not every parent practices the same child rearing approaches as I do. Those who support physically disciplining their children often support their stance with, “I was beaten as a child and I turned out fine”. But are you really? Because I’m not nor are the many others that were subjected to corporal punishment.
Instinctively, when my children behave in a way that could be perceived as misbehaving; such as them talking back, not listening to and/or defying me, etc. My default mode of thinking is to physically punish them because that’s what I learned to do. I get triggered because I was raised to believe that children are not supposed to behave this way, they are supposed to be respectful, quiet, not throw tantrums, etc. Instead, in those moments, I pause and check in with myself to determine my needs. I communicate to my children: “mommy needs a minute” and I step away for a few while I regulate myself with deep breathing exercises. I mentally bookmark my experience to explore at a later time and to understand why I had that reaction. Once my mind is clear and I feel more calm, I address my children accordingly. What I’ve learned is that tantrums are age appropriate and when our children are being “disagreeable'' (i.e., throwing tantrums or having meltdowns) there is something that they are trying to communicate to us through their behaviour. The goal is not to have our children obey us. As their parents, our goal is to get to the root of their behaviour and equip them with the skills, tools, and resources they need to develop and nurture their emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical well-being in a healthy manner (to the best of our abilities).
Some people have the misconception that following the aforementioned parenting approach(es) means that you are a permissive parent, which is not true. Children absolutely need to learn discipline, we all do. There is a difference between discipline and punishment. Imagine not having the words to communicate how you’re feeling and instead of being shown love, patience, understanding, and compassion - you’re physically punished.
Colonization has permeated every aspect of our existence, child-rearing included. Along my parenting journey, I have learned that showing our children love, compassion, patience, and understanding is how our ancestors parented pre-colonization. My children have been my greatest triggers, but they are also my greatest teachers. As I endeavor on this decolonizing journey, there is so much that I am unlearning and relearning. In the process, I am not only reparenting and healing myself, but healing the past and future generations.
If this information is new to you and you are interested in incorporating it in your life, here is some advice: we all have to meet ourselves where we are and do what we can with what we have. Learning and implementing these concepts will take time, practice, and patience. Choose one thing to work on, maybe it is being in the present moment and becoming aware of when you are becoming increasingly frustrated. Spend some time creating a plan of action, which can consist of what you’ll do when it happens and how to move forward in a healthy way. You may or may not get it right on the first try. If you don’t, be gentle with and forgive yourself; aim to do better for the next time. Parenting, like life, is a marathon, not a sprint; so pace yourself accordingly.
With so much love, stay safe and be well Mamas.
Bilingual BACertified Transformational Coach | Wholesome Mind Health Coaching