“Meha, Arya hasta kyu nahi hai ?” (Why doesn’t Arya Laugh ?) My mother was asking me seemingly worried…. Pat came my reply ‘He has gone on his father !’ … and I laughed it off…. My son was 2 at that time… I must say it took me 4 years to realize that he could really laugh… I mean laughter that reached his eyes and made his whole body lighten up …. and that happened when I made some big changes in my parenting style… Am sharing some with you today … It’s a long post again but more or less sums up what I learnt in 4 years !
1. I stopped pushing him for food and other unnecessary things : I think this is one of the biggest reason both he and me were not enjoying the first 3 years of his life… It was more of a war .. As soon as he started on solids, I noticed that he was too particular about his food.. for e.g. roti (Indian bread) needs to be dry… roti dipped in dal (legumes) is rejected…. the khichdi should look pretty without any ‘blemishes’ like jeera (cumin seeds) or tiny red spots of mirchi powder (chilli powder)… the list is endless… How I got around this is mentioned in detail in my blog ‘https://enjoyingyourkids.wordpress.com/2015/01/30/hello-world/‘ … In fact , even today, if I or any of my relatives start pushing him to eat something he doesn’t want to, I can see his mood getting affected for the whole day !
Similarly, if we go to a class like Gymboree, I don’t force him to try out all the activity structures in the stipulated time. Earlier I would push him to complete each and every activity to get my money’s worth. Now I let him choose what he wants to do and for how long. Even if its one structure for the entire time so be it…what’s the hurry ? It gives him some peaceful time to ‘know’ what he likes and spend time doing it rather than me herding him like cattle !
But I still push him for hygiene activities like Brushing his teeth and Bath 🙂 !
2. I understood the primary nature of kids and worked with it: I was never a “kid’s person”… They didn’t really exist in my world till I had my own kids… Yes I did appreciate kids but only from a distance… So when I had my son, I expected him to be mature and understanding like us adults… I was more of a textbook parent….
I didn’t know that when he is playing with his Lego and refusing to come for dinner, it’s not because he wants to defy me… It’s because he is so engrossed in what he is making that he doesn’t feel hunger ! and that I need to touch him on his shoulders to get him back into reality and personally bring him to the table …. Or when he wants to sit on the bed just when the soft bedsheet is landing on the bed, he is not troubling me when I am making the bed… He just wants to have fun with me… Or when he refuses to sleep at bed time, he ‘just isn’t sleepy’.. he needs me to help him calm down with a book and some warm milk instead of hearing me shout ‘Get in bed,…why can’t you ever sleep in time?? ‘! It’s in their nature to go to the bathroom to pee but get distracted by the mirror and start making funny faces instead ! Now I don’t freak out on the thought of having to clean the floor…I laugh at the faces ! It’s in their nature to be inquisitive about things and walk all around a new person’s home…he is not being nosey ! I just take my child around the home on my own before we settle into the play area !
3. I relaxed the schedule and myself ! : I still have a schedule but only some part of it is fixed like going to bed time… Earlier, I was very particular about each and every part of the schedule so much so that I had stuck it in the hall and every half an hour I would read it to my son and get him to do the next activity… it was very strenuous for him, me and my husband !
Now I let it flow… I take each day as it comes and I find its simpler when you sit back and start enjoying the moment you are in without worrying about any damn schedule !
To quote from this book ‘Moms Come First’ by Dvorh Adler :
“Life may look like a chaotic mess, but it’s really very orderly and quite happy in its organic state. Look at nature and you can see there is a time and purpose for everything under heaven. You plant an apple seed and at the appropriate time you get apples, not oranges or figs. There is a natural , right rhythm in life that brings everything to fruition.We are a part of that rhythm . Unfortunately, man is the only one who wants to push and manipulate that rhythm to his own advantage. He doesn’t realise that his best advantage is the natural rhythm expressed through him.
Have you ever experienced waking up in the morning and everything starts out right. You didn’t have to do a thing. The phone call came at the right time. You got the last parking lot. Everything flowed naturally without you forcing it.
There are other times when you wake up and immediately start pushing and manipulating everything and everybody. You have a ‘lot of things to do’ and must get them done. You yell at the kids to hurry and get dressed. You growl at your husband for using the bathroom too long.Finally you shovel everyone into the car and everyone is upset. Everything feels out of order and you never do complete the things you set out to do.
Its times like these that you have a choice. you can fight the situation, going against the natural rhythm or you can choose to be happy and flow with whats happening. You will find whatever needs to be done, gets done without causing much tension.”
4. I slept more and ate first ! I used to always think that my son’s foul mood or tantrum was either because he was hungry, hadn’t slept enough or didn’t have a bowel movement !
I realised after 4 YEARS that HE was so when “I” was hungry or sleepy or dissatisfied with my life…. ! So I adopted four techniques to change the situation and have more happy times with my kids..:
a) I always eat before I feed my kids… I never ever feed them when I am starving.. That’s a recipe for disaster… I might be seen as selfish but its better for my kids and me both !
b) I do yoga nidra daily ! This is a 25 minute meditation which when done lying down, gives 3 hours worth of deep sleep ! You could do it too at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvldC6mzLvA
c) I lightened up my personal schedule ! I have a tendency of cramming up too many things in my day and running after them… I consciously prioritize my list of to-dos and take up new projects only if I think I can manage comfortably! Same goes for my son…There is always quiet time in the day for him to laze around and recharge his senses.
d) I outsourced ‘my weakness’ – I hired a cook . Cooking is not my cup of tea and it takes me hours. It consumed all my time leaving very little time for anything else and hence making me feel frustrated. Now I pay extra for a part-time cook but it gives me invaluable peace of mind! Also, I still do cook occasionally but its more cooking for fun with my son now !
I love this article on the same concept http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-03-20/features/9403200132_1_parenting-books-situations-mom
5) I started feeding a tantrum with hugs ! Most parenting books tell you that the best way to deal with a tantrum is ‘to starve it’ . I completely disagree… It doesn’t work for me and only worsens the situation. Ignoring my crying toddler or confining him to his room alone till he sorts out his feelings just makes him feel unloved ! He stops crying but it is more out of fear of losing my presence rather than resolving the issue.
I feel like starving / ignoring a tantrum is like “Allopathy”- suppressing the symptoms of a bigger issue for it to resurface later with greater intensity !
I use LOVE to heal tantrums. I know that if I am unhappy with my husband I don’t want him to shut me out. I want him to sit with me…give me his time to understand the problem…. ask me hundred times before I open up about it…
And this is exactly what I do with my son.. I seat him on my lap while he is sobbing uncontrollably…hug him …I give words to his feelings – I understand you are angry…..joke with him…make him ‘laugh’ and then understand his problem… And I don’t dismiss his issue as if its nothing ! It might be small for me but it’s definitely big for him ! So I agree with him, empathise and keep saying kind / funny words till he has calmed down…. We talk about the practical aspect of that issue only once he is fine and in control…
6) Biting, hitting, peeing in the pants are not problems. They are only symptoms ! Let me give you an example. you go to school and you find out your child bit another kid. What will you do ? Feel humiliated that his behavior reflects on your bad parenting ? Reprimand him when he meets you after school ? Punish him ? Force him to say sorry to the other child ?
You know what I would do ? I would not even talk about it ! I would just HUG him …HUG him till he wants to let go… he has been through a lot already… getting irked to the level of losing self control…feeling guilty about the episode…being informed by his teacher that what he did is wrong , which by the way, he already knows….thinking that he is a bad person…
I know that when he is ready, he will confess to me himself.. whether it’s at bed time or in the car after a few days… he will tell me himself that it was wrong and why he did it and we will discuss how to avoid it next time…but at that moment he needs to know that when the whole world is hating him, there is one person in this world who still loves him !
7) Show TRUST and BELIEF ! When my son used to get hurt and would cry, I would say stop crying…it’s not that bad…its just a scrape…don’t cry like a girl…stop crying for god’s sake !
Now… I ‘trust’ him when he says he got hurt.. I hug him and say ‘awwww’… that must be painful… lets put a band-aid (even if its nothing)… you know what he says now ‘Mooom, its not that Bad !!’
I will give you another example. Once while leaving school my son was crying inconsolably. He had brought a small toy to school (I didn’t know that) but now he wasn’t allowed to take it back home because the teacher thought it was the school’s. The teacher kept telling him, “Go home now and check at home. If you don’t find yours at home you can take this tomorrow”… My son was inconsolable the whole day looking for it at home till he went next day and told the teacher it was rightfully his ! You know what should have been done instead ? I should have just told the teacher that let him have this toy today. If we find the other one at home, we will give it back tomorrow. That trust should be shown in a child…Its just a matter of a small toy…But its the ‘trust’ that you are actually ‘playing with’ when you say ‘I don’t believe you’!
Another example is my baby sitter.. I had an excellent baby sitter who helped me sometimes… Once I came home to see she was a wreck.. The baby didn’t sleep.. She (nanny) didn’t get to eat and my son barged into the room shouting “spider spider” when the baby was about to fall asleep…She was annoyed with him and in the same breath she told me that she didn’t believe that he saw a spider… That was the END of my relationship with her… If you don’t trust my children I cannot have you damage their self esteem !
8) RESPECT ! I once heard a scary story ! My friend family went for a car trip in India with another relatives family. It was a long journey and they had to make several stops because one of the kid’s wanted to poop frequently. The father got fed up and complained ‘How many times do you have to go’!! Now..would you ever say this to an adult ? NO…But you will tell a child because he is small and you can feel you can talk to him any way you want ! Anyway…the child felt soooooo bad that he refused to eat anything after that for the remaining trip !!!!…
This story makes me tearful even now and I make it a point to RESPECT my child ALL the time ! His jokes…his views… his potty time… his peeing in the pants…. his dropping food on the table while eating…. NOTHING can make me TAUNT or DISRESPECT him.. I don’t even touch him in a disrespectful way like touching his pants to see if they are wet …. If ‘I’ don’t RESPECT him, how will he learn to RESPECT himself and OTHERS ??? and the easy way to do this is to talk to him the way I would like people to talk to me.
I don’t trick him to. Earlier I used to trick him into eating vegetables, going to a daycare / school he didn’t like , going for a bath… Now I am straightforward with him. It prevents a lot of hard feelings.
9) Give him independent projects: My son loves the term ‘Project’ because every day I give him a project that makes him feel good about himself and gets him appreciation from me.
For e.g. he can get to refill the wipes in the wipe warmer. He gets to find something for me after I describe the location in words. He gets to serve and bring desert for me in a buffet without knowing to read but just by matching the description that I gave him…and so on and so forth… I don’t plan for it.. I just offload many of my jobs on him 😉
And I dont dissuade him by showing that I think he will fail…For e.g. when he wants to carry a glass bowl I don’t tell him ‘No, You can’t do it…You will drop it ‘! I say its heavy and made of glass…If it falls you can get hurt…Here hold it and see..If you think you can carry it, just wear closed shoes and I can help you hold it from one side…
10) Allowing him to sleep : My son fell sick several times in the first few years and I find that its connected to sleep in a big way…So my policy is ‘Never wake up a sleeping child’..
I used to send him to a playschool in India when he was 2.5 and it was a pain to get him up and ready by 9 a.m. Now I realise it was unnecessary stress… I should have just gone for an afternoon school or no school at all… It is wrong to expect kids to have a fixed schedule at that age and bet so much money on it and then chase them to be on time !
In fact in the US , kids start school at only age 5 ! It’s perfectly ok for the child to be home with his mother the whole day too…!! So completing his sleep requirement keeps him happy and healthy.
11) MOMMY TIME : this is the most crucial one.. When Arya was 4 years old and at home with me I decided to send him to an Indian daycare once a week from 9 to 6 just to get all my errands done and to get some me time. I noticed that on that day he used to be particularly touchy and in a bad mood …not listening …more demanding…more sensitive… So, I changed it to half a day and observed that spending the other half with me made him so calm and normal ! So I make sure I spend quality mommy time with him at least once a day !
I must say that my son’s smile is back… His carefree nature is back …. Now people don’t ask me why he looks older than his age…. Now he doesn’t fear being a child and listening to his heart… Now I enjoy his spontaneity and get a lot of satisfaction in it… I lost the first 4 years of his laughter but am glad I can enjoy the rest of my lifetime now..Like they say in Hindi ‘Der aaye Durust Aaye’ (Better late than never) !