Saturday 4 February 2023

Joyful Parenting

 At the beginning of this year I chose "Joyful" as my word of the year, and I have been using January to think about this word and map out how I will navigate creating a more joyful year for myself.

One area of my life which I have been finding especially joyless has been my parenting.  So I've decided to have parenting as my focus for growth in February.  Currently my parenting is feeling very joy-less.  I have got myself into a lot of bad habits.  Joyful parenting for me does not look like:

  • Yelling,  
  • shaming, 
  • making my children feel sad, 
  • punishments,
  • distracting myself from my children with social media, 
  • Not praising
  • not having time for my children,
I'm ashamed to say I've been doing far too much of this recently. 

    But equally joyful parenting doesn't feel like:
    • Being nagged constantly,
    • Feeling overwhelmed,
    • Experiencing sensory overload from the constant noise and requests,
    • my children saying unkind words to me,
    • Feeling guilty
    • not having any me-time.

      I matter too.  

      Let me tell you a bit about my parenting over the years, I've been doing it for over 10 years now so I feel I have a bit of experience.  

      When I had my first I was very idealistic.  I read books like Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn,  How to talk so kids will listen, how to listen so kids will talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, No bad kids by Janet Lansbury, The Gentle Parent by L.R Knost, and books by Sarah Ockwell Smith, and others.  So you probably get the idea of where I was hoping to come from with my parenting. 

      Now I am not saying that there books are bad (except Unconditional Parenting)  they are all good and have wonderful ideals, but they have become unrealistic for me, they have become a source of guilt and shame.  I cannot live up to the way parenting is presented in these books, maybe it would work if you have one or two children and they are in school and you have no housework, but, and I cringe to say it, gentle parenting hasn't worked for me or my children.  And we are now in a not-very-pleasant situation where we all shout at each other far too much, we don't speak kindly, I feel resentful, and they appear ungrateful and no one is really happy. 

      I am certain some reading this will think that I was just doing it wrong and maybe there is truth in that but I need to find a way forward that works for me and my children that doesn't leave me feeling guilty, like a failure and like I have ruined my children's lives. 

      But February is about being Joyful so I'm not going to spend any more time on self deprecation, adding more guilt to the load I already carry isn't going to help me.  I need a way forward that is going to be positive for me and my children. 

      So, what does joyful parenting look like for me and my children?

      Praising my kids - I didn't believe it when Alfie Kohn said don't praise you kids, it never felt right and I don't believe it now either.  I weep at the number of times I held back a cry of joyful praise at something wonderful one of my children had done, and instead joylessly described their drawing, observed their behaviour back to them, asked them a question about how they felt.  
      How my heart sings now to cry "good boy" to one of my children.  Who doesn't want to be called good?  In Genesis we read God creating humanity and declaring it was "very good".  If God can call us good they I sure as heck can tell my boys that they are good, even very good!  Yes praising my children is joyful and I'll be doing as much of this as I can this year. 

      Holding back the yells - I've nearly finished reading a book called Yell Less Love More by Sheila McCraith, and although the release of a yell in the moment might feel like a release of stress and give momentary relief, it certainly isn't joyful, so I'm going to try harder to hold back the yells using the techniques she gives (which by the way aren't fixated on examining your triggers, which I find, quite frankly like gaslighting parents.  Kids are annoying sometimes, lets just say that! they're annoying just because they are annoying!! Not necessarily because of some awful thing that happened in my childhood!  I hereby give you permission to feel annoyed by your children without having to masticate endlessly over why.)

      Get off my phone - Distracting myself from my children isn't joyful, having them see me on my phone a lot also isn't joyful, not being present and missing things isn't joyful. I need to create some SMART targets for myself to get off my phone (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) so this is something else I am going to work on. 

      I also feel like joyful parenting looks like having a good time when I am with my children.  That they like me, trust me and respect me enough to know that what I am asking them to do is the right thing.  I think it feels like boundaries being put in place that mean they understand that nagging is not going to work, and that kind words help you get what you want and make you and others feel good.  I think it looks like getting time to myself to replenish.  It looks like laughing together, having fun together, having my children help me round the house.  Not having to yell all the time, working cooperatively.  I could go on, and perhaps now I am getting into fantasy land, but I think it is right to aim high, to visualise how I want it to be to "manifest" the life I would like.  

      That's all I've got so far and I'm going to use February to read more books and and work out what else makes parenting joyful and hopefully I'll be able to get back to you with an update on how this is going as the year goes on, but I've got all year to work on this so there's plenty of time to figure it out.  The most important thing I am going to need on this journey is prayer, because I can't do this on my own, but "I can do all things through He who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13. 

      If you'd like to join me on my joyful journey please subscribe to my blog and you'll get all my posts direct to your inbox.