I think for many parents the ability to set limits and boundaries in a calm manner can be such a hard thing.
First of all, as a first-time attached parent, we have to learn how to surrender to this wee being and share our bodies, our time, our lives. We have to make the transition from being perhaps an outside-the-home career woman who has a schedule and deadlines to meet and control over time to an extent to slowing down to the home environment where we are lucky to get a shower! We have visions based upon parenting books we read that the baby will sleep a lot and we will have all this time to clean our house and walk on our treadmills or something and quickly realize that is not reality with an infant. It can take time to transition into relaxing into our baby’s cues for breastfeeding, for sleep. Once we do that, and are nursing and sharing proximity in sleep and realizing that the child does not view himself as separate from us, we learn to surrender and have an ebb and flow of connection with our child.
However, then there comes the assertion of will from the child. We start to realize that the child is pushing against the forms of the day, the rhythm we have so carefully crafted. It seems so unfair after we worked so hard to learn to surrender and to connect! Some people see this transition point as defiance, but in the land of Waldorf Education and even in the land of traditional childhood development pushing against the forms of the day is not seen as caused by the child being malicious or trying to be devious! The child is learning, the child is realizing they are a person onto themselves. However, this can be a frustrating time in parenting a small child because the child does have an idea of what they want, and they do live in the moment without much thought of what happens before or after an action. If you need further help, here is a post to help you: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/
With our first child, we may slowly start to realize the child is not the same as us; not a psychological extension of us. We start to realize that the needs of the whole family absolutely do count and not just the needs of the child. Some parents realize these things earlier than others. Some parents come to this rather late, and because they are totally fed up and feel as if they must have done everything wrong as a parent because why else would their child act this way?
Some parents get truly frustrated and they say to me things such as: “I tell them what to do and they run the other way!” or other parents say, “I get frustrated because I am so mad and ready to lose it and they SMILE at me or LAUGH!”
They are probably smiling or laughing at you because they do not understand the emotions on your face other than, boy, there is a lot of intensity there and I have no clue what to do. If you show small children different adults with different non-verbal gestures and postures that we as adults can read well, they absolutely cannot read the cues. These small children came out of the womb three or four years ago! Seriously! They laugh and smile because they don’t know how else to react! Or, they imitate you and react being angry back and then the parent is completely enraged that the child is reacting that way instead of reacting like a calm, rational adult who would say, “Of course I will help you pick up the big mess I made down. In fact, why don’t you go put your feet up with a cup of tea and I will take care of it all!”
Children imitate what they see; their entire being is an eye at this point that takes everything in without a filter. You have to be calm as a parent! That expression of “keep calm and carry on” is so apt as a parent! You must be able to detach yourself enough from your emotions to address the behavior you do not want, and to focus on the behavior you want in a creative way- through song, movement, helping the child through your GENTLE physical touch. That is where they live! They don’t live in the verbal commands you direct from the kitchen while you are doing something else! Your ability to take care of yourself, to dialogue with your spouse or partner and family so they can help you, your relationship with your spouse or partner, your physical home, your health and diet and exercise habits all greatly impact this ability to be calm. You need your inner work; your prayer life, your meditation, attending a place of religious worship! If you are burned-out, tapped-out, stressed out – it is much more difficult to remain calm and connected to your child in the moment.
Parenting is saying and doing the same thing over and over with the small child. This is how they learn, and it takes time. They do not have the impulse control or logical thought when they are small to do otherwise.
To have realistic expectations is EXTREMELY important. You may be expecting something completely out of the realm of normalcy for that age, especially for those of you who are first time parents or those of you who have large age gaps between children. The minute those “My child SHOULD be able to _____” starts in your head, breathe and take a step back! We will take a peek at some other realistic expectations for different ages in the next post in this series.
Many, many blessings