So today I asked my three kids (one teen and two young adults) how they would describe me as a parent. They took a minute to think about that and here are their individual responses:
My 23 year old said, “Absolutely amazing”, then laughed…I waited, knowing his difficulty in showing his emotions, wondering if he was serious or being sarcastic. A minute later he said, “Actually, I am going to stick with that answer.” Whew! I was hoping that is how he felt, but I certainly wanted a genuine heart-felt response so I am glad that was his ‘final answer’. When I asked him to tell me more about that he said (in true form of a child raised by a coach), “Well let me ask you a question…Some kids are conditioned to behave by punishment and some by rewards, how do you think you parented us?” GOOD Question! After a few moments to reflect, my reply was that I don’t punish or reward in the typical sense. I parent with praise and thanks or conversation and natural consequence. When I asked him the last time he remembers being punished he could not think of anything (although his last consequence was just a few months ago when he had to pay for something he lost). I know for a fact we have had our differences and struggles along the way, but because we handle situations with mutual respect they seldom, if ever get heated or tense. This was not always the case, but more on that in a minute.
My 16 year old son’s answer was, “Helpful and talkative”. Wow! My heart swelled a little from the backseat (where I now sit when riding with these two 6’2″ giants). I asked him to tell me more about his answer and he clarified that, “you like to have conversations”…that could have been a good thing or an annoying thing. He continued with, “You are willing to have conversations about anything we want”. Well, okay then (heart swell again). I asked if he was ever annoyed by my wanting to talk and he said, “that depends on my mood at the time”- so true! I was amazed and appreciative of the sincerity and thoughtfulness he put into his answers.
Finally, I called my 20 year old daughter and asked her the same question. As she was assisting her nanny kids in riding a zipline at a playspace, her answer was immediate: “Responsive.” When I asked her to tell me more she said, “I don’t know how else to describe it, you are responsive in everything… present, supportive, open. Even if I am in trouble you are still open to discussion and to my feelings. You are willing to discuss things and I do not have to be afraid to talk it out with you.” Honestly, I am so thankful I asked (now that I got three positive answers :). However, I know that if I wouldn’t have shifted my parenting style 15 years ago these responses would have been very different, if I would have even been able to ask at all!
When my children were little (1, 4 and 7) I had a temper and was often overwhelmed. I reacted to small infractions from a place of frustration and command which usually made them cower or rebel only making the situation worse. Even orange juice on the floor or noise when the baby was napping would set me off. Then I would feel guilty that for me to feel better they had to feel worse. I hated the way I was parenting and the way my children felt about themselves because of it. Things had to change. That is when I made the conscious decision to SHIFT. To parent with genuine positivity and grace. I was amazed that using simple tools and regulating my neurochemistry I was calmer, more accepting, playful and happy! My kids laughed more, fought less and cooperated with me willingly! If I had only done something earlier I could erase all those memories of Mommy Guilt that I still have to this day. I just thank God that I didn’t continue the behaviors that warranted guilt any longer. I also thank God that my relationships with all three of my kids, my classroom students, my clients and my 7 nieces and nephews are now positive, encouraging and trusting which allows me to live out my passion: helping others make sense of the complex and simplify life so that it can be enjoyed to the fullest!
What would your kids’ answers be to the same question? Are you willing to find out?