I have a lovely reader who told me about a valuable tool she uses to “keep calm and carry on”. It was so profound that I asked her to write a guest post and share her thoughts with all of you. Thank you, Jennifer S.!
by Jennifer S.
"Our behavior is a reflection of who we are at the moment. Hating your child’s behavior is like saying you don’t love the part of your child that wants to behave that way." Author Unknown
My mother was a gem. She mothered me like a lot of others mothers did in the early 70’s – the natural way. Quite frankly, she mothered me in the spirit of Rudolf Steiner’s teachings without knowing who Rudolf Steiner was. My memories of how I was mothered, coupled with my inherent nature and my experience teaching Waldorf preschool have all shaped how I mother my 22- month –old- daughter. I’d venture to say to that I am doing an exceptional job. But I do have my moments. We all do. After all, we are mothers which typically means we wear a couple of hundred hats a week. We are allowed to be human and to have not so stellar mothering moments.
For me, the hardest part of mothering is not having that knee jerk reaction to behavior I consider bothersome or unwanted. I get in a tunnel sometimes and when my daughter does something that pulls me out of my mothering tunnel, I find that I react with an immediate exasperated sigh. I hate this. I do it more when I am tired and feeling like the weight of the world is upon me. (Which it is – I am, after all raising a human being!) I am conscious of the fact that I do this and I am also conscious of the downcast look on my daughter’s face.
I know mothers who do this very same thing and often times their reactions are even more extreme. Dealing with unwanted behavior (and by unwanted, I am referring to behavior that is annoying to us as mothers, not behavior that can cause harm to the child or others) is a daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute challenge. So how can mothers put their negative reactions in check in an effort to be a peaceful parent to their child?
When I asked myself this question about a year ago, I thought back to my gem of a mother and some pearls of wisdom she provided me with long ago as I struggled with little ones both as a nanny and in a preschool setting. She told me to “take pause” and consider what impact your child’s behavior will have in seven different increments of time. I asked her what she meant by “seven increments of time.” It turns out that it is very simple and quite frankly works. When your child acts in a way that causes you annoyance, exaggeration, anxiety and the like, take pause and consider the following:
- What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 seconds?
- What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 minutes?
- What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 hours?
- What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 days?
- What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 weeks?
- What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 months?
- What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 years?
For me, I usually calm down and am no longer irritated with my child by the time I hit “10 days.” I very rarely have to look much further down the timeline.
Taking the time to play out the effects of my child’s behavior is a calming moment in and of itself and it almost always makes me realize how trivial my child’s actions are and that it is some problem in myself that I need to address. Using this ten by seven rule simply lets a mother catch her breath before she expels it in an exasperated sigh (or worse!)
Honestly, my daughter is too young to know what I am doing but she watches me and realizes that I am taking a moment to push myself into a better parenting space. And she appreciates it. I know this because she will often give me a hug or a snuggle along with a grin that says “you’ll miss my antics when I outgrow them!” And she is right! I will miss her sneaking onto the top of the couch, just to fall off moments later. I will miss her dumping over the entire contents of the cat’s food bowl. I will miss her taking all of the trash out of the trash can. I will miss her unstuffing all of her cloth diaper inserts. I will miss her smearing her food all over the table. I will miss her dumping all of her water on the floor. I will miss all of these things and more because someday she will be off living her grown -up life and I will long for the pitter patter sound of her little feet followed by the perverbial “uh oh.” And I will wish that I had taken more time to savor those moments which caused me annoyance. The ten by seven rule allows me to do this because I ultimately realize that my daughter is just being her “age” and that I need to take pause and enjoy it for it is a mere fleeting moment.
It’s funny but I have seen similar concepts circulating around blog land recently. I would like to think that my mother was the mastermind behind this idea but hence, it really does not matter. What matters is that she gave me a tool to became a better mother. I hope that I have given this to you in turn. And on that note, I leave you with another great quote: “Believe in your child beyond today’s problem or behavior.” Author Unknown
Carrie here: The other thing I love about this is the demonstration of passing on how we parent to the next generation. Grandmother to mother to granddaughter.
What kind of legacy are you leaving for your children in the way you parent?