Parenting Tip: Focus on Yourself First

“We have met the enemy, and he is us” – Walt Kelly

Parenting Advice Regarding Children’s Behavior from my Community

Recently I reached out to a few friends (each a parent of a 5-year-old) for parenting advice regarding our son’s behavior. My older child had just turned 5, and with his new age, so too came intense disagreement with me over just about everything. He disparaged me for using words like “thank you” and antagonized his younger brother endlessly. I don’t know what I was expecting my various friends to tell me, but I was desperate for a quick fix of my child. 

The responses I received were strikingly similar:

One friend said: “I always try to focus on breathing through those difficult times”. Another friend confided that she didn’t have great advice, and any advice she’d given over the years she now scoffed at. She did, however, specifically offer me a kind, listening ear. A third friend offered several local resources for parents, including doing my own meditation.

Over the next few days, I sat with the words of the people to whom I’d reached out. None of the advice involved trying to coerce my child in any way. All of the responses focused on me finding the courage to change myself or to just be with the pain and frustration of being a parent of a strong-willed preschooler. I planned to get advice to find an easy way to help my child, but ended up with reflections on how I can manage myself during these times. 

Focus on yourself first during those hard moments

Recently, I sat with our three-year-old in mid-tantrum, and with desperation in my eyes, I looked at my partner as he headed out for work. My partner said, “focus on yourself, honey”. These were the exact words I needed to hear. Take care of my own needs first, then comfort my child. When children are yelling and crying, we like to force them out of that state or try to fix them. They need to be allowed to feel their painful feelings and know that there is a parent lovingly waiting for them. As such, I gave myself the gift of a deep breath and continued to gently hold my child’s hand. Eventually, he settled down and ate breakfast. I felt a sense of relief.
I’d like to remember to heed the words of my peers when I’m dealing with my five-year-old child, just as I remained calm with my three-year-old. I know I can’t take away the frustrations of my children and I don’t want to, because they need to grow, and so do I. I believe we grow through the challenges in our days. We have the power to change only one person in our lives: ourselves. A powerful and loving thing we can do for our children is to continually take care of our own needs, and continue becoming our most authentic, honest, human selves.  We deserve it and so do our kids.