I am often in the same trenches as the families I am working with. Sometimes I find that my own struggles in parenting are reflected in the families I work with and I come to realise that the suggestions, theories and creative solutions I am working on with them may also be helpful for me and my family. It can help me see my own situation more clearly as seeing it through other people’s eyes gives a different perspective. I think it also allows me to bring compassion to my work with my clients and in turn to bring it home and offer it to myself.
The word discipline is derived from the Latin for “teaching”. I try and hold this at the core of what I do as a mother. Almost every situation in parenting provides an opportunity for us to teach our children something valuable. That might be about social norms, emotion regulation, how to make up for a mistake, or perhaps that, as human beings, we all make mistakes and that making mistakes is ok. This does not mean that I don’t have boundaries with the boys. When the heat is on, the consequence that I use most is the removal of a privilege. And when I make that threat and no cooperation is achieved, I always follow through with it. You have to think carefully about what threat you will make, how you will follow it through and at what cost to yourself!
Anything that is punitive, or harsh, and doesn’t help a child grow or learn how to do it differently, is a no-no for me. Using fear, or physical threats, the sense that “I am big, you are small”, does not teach a child anything valuable and often does not help them to avoid making the same mistake again. As humans we are all fallible and sometimes parents are at the end of their tethers, (I have been there!), but we have to model ways of managing our own emotions and staying true to our values.
If I could go horse riding every day, I would. But more often, my down time is reading a good book, time at the beach, or in nature, and spending time with my family and good friends. I try to make sure that I fit in regular exercise. I find this so valuable physically, but also mentally, and I have a great group of women who I work out with, so it is also sociable.
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is trying to be perfect and trying to make their children perfect. We are all imperfect and the stress of even trying to reach the unreachable is debilitating and shaming for parents and their children. It doesn’t leave any space to enjoy the good bits as there is so much preoccupation with what you are doing wrong. This is often fed by comparisons and pressure to conform or keep up with people around us and exacerbated by social media.
Read more: The invisible stress of being a mum
I make mistakes! But I try and practice self-compassion in these moments. Sometimes more successfully than others! That means that I take time to notice when I am struggling with parenting and perhaps feeling overwhelmed, or not good enough, and how my behaviour has changed as a result. Usually what I notice is that I am more short-tempered and more task-focused with the boys and life in general. I try and offer myself some empathy in the same way that I might offer a friend empathy and then look for a way forward that connects me back to my values as a parent. Sometimes I have to go back to the boys, or to my husband, and offer an apology, or explain how I am feeling so that we can get back on track. It is always ok to admit you made a mistake to your children. Then they will learn that they can make mistakes and not internalise shame when they inevitably do. Admit your imperfection, share how you feel and how you would like to do better next time. It can be really powerful for a young person to hear this from an adult and they can also become part of the solution.
Parents have been parenting (and making mistakes!) for thousands of years but now we have easy access to so much parenting information, it’s easy to over- analyse ourselves as parents. If we are, for the large part, present, consistent, attuned and responsive to our children, they will most likely develop the emotional resilience to weather our mistakes and idiosyncrasies. There is also space for us to be who we really are and we can always revisit certain decisions, and revise our approach, if we feel that they are not in line with our values or need to be adapted to meet our children’s needs. We can even discuss this with our older children. This does take a lot of awareness and reflection and is not always easy to do when we are stuck in our own patterns. I also believe, perhaps unsurprisingly, that therapy isn’t a negative thing and exploring our own childhoods and the impact our parents had on us, is part of a journey that helps us see more clearly who we are and who we would like to be.
It is often easier to help others with parenting. I can access the theory and the paradigms without the same level of emotion. When I am in a parenting situation myself, I have to first manage my own emotions before I can get to the heart of what I know. I try to keep that in mind when I am working with families as I know how hard it can be when you are in the moment. Be kind to yourself. That doesn’t mean being lenient, or complacent, but it means not beating yourself up when the going gets tough.
Dr Rose’s top five do’s and don’ts
THE FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD ALWAYS SAY TO YOUR CHILD:
I love you.
I am proud of you.
I love it when you....
You can try yourself/again.
I am sorry.
THE FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY TO YOUR CHILD:
You are bad/naughty.
You are perfect/the best.
You can’t do it.
You are not doing it right/ well enough.
I can’t handle you.
GET IN TOUCH WITH DR ROSE
For more from Dr Rose, book an individual session with her at Lighthouse Arabia, or join one of her parenting events, such as their Mommy Monday seminars, for parents of ages zero to five, or their Conscious Parent series, which addresses issues for older children, tweens and teens. Additionally, Lighthouse Arabia offers social skills groups and tween and teen talks that also have parenting components running alongside the groups. Dr Rose says, “We are always looking for ways to engage the with the community and so we are often out speaking to parents in schools and at other community events and are always open to ideas and requests.” Visit www.lighthousearabia.com.