Some mornings, my 6 yr old starts off loud, banging things, scripting non stop, hitting everything, screaming at his lego creations, or bouncing off the walls. Okay, almost every morning. And some days, particularly if I haven’t had enough sleep (or coffee), it takes every ounce of my energy just to stay calm enough to help him let go, or cope, or whatever it is he needs. And sometimes I get angry instead. Sometimes I yell at him, instead of speaking calmly. Sometimes I put in my headphones to drown out his singing and banging, and I ignore him. Sometimes I hide in the bathroom. And frequently that makes him worse.
Sure I feel bad about the (too many) times I let my emotions get the better of me. I feel guilty for not being able to help him calm down every time. I beat myself up for the wrong tone of voice, or not addressing the problem sooner, or just my own lack of control. I question my ability to parent effectively. I berate myself for choosing to stay up too late, or forgetting to buy more coffee. But at the end of it all, none of that guilt is productive. It doesn’t help me get back on track.
I’m not perfect, and I make mistakes. But that’s OK. It’s allowed. I give myself permission to NOT be perfect ALL the time. The fact that I know when I’ve screwed up, and that I feel bad about it, is enough. I don’t have to make it worse by “beating a dead horse”. The mistake is made, what’s done is done. All I can do is move forward, and expect that I will at some point (and probably frequently) screw up again. I’ve learned that progress is better than perfection, and way more attainable.
As parents of extra challenging kids, we have to cut ourselves some slack. And we have to practice what we preach. That might just be the key. For every time you tell your kid to take deep breaths, take some yourself. And when you are teaching them to try again, and that it’s okay to make mistakes, take your own advice. I think more than anything else, THIS has helped me the most. I make lots of mistakes. And as a single mom, I don’t have anyone else to take the blame, or be the bad guy, or just to share in my guilt. It’s all on me. And reminding myself of the same concepts I’m teaching my kids is absolutely the only thing keeping my head above water most of the time.
Practice what you preach, and they just might pick up on your stellar example :)