It started out so promisingly. With the oldest son (now ten) in the sling, I watched a boy of about six in the children’s farm trying to kick an empty can as hard as possible against a pram with his face of a thunderstorm. What a monster, I thought, as long as mine doesn’t dry up like this.
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While I mused about how I would handle all this in the future, the mother took a few firm steps to the monster. Now you will get it, I guessed; a roaring ‘stop that!’ or at least a little too hard tug on that flapping arm. But none of that. In her brisk pace she picked up a football from the ground, put it in his hands and said, “See if you can get it kicked in that goal there.”
The devil’s child forgot the can of instant pede, skipped to the football pitch further on and – be careful – played lively. Mother threw the can in the trash, turned her attention to her child in the wagon and enveloped the petting zoo in an almost serene tranquility. I watched in bewilderment. Wow, that’s how I would do it later.
How hard could it be?
I often think back to it. To the mother who kept her cool and acted so nicely. The books I subsequently read about positive parenting. How I, as a brand new mother, resolved never to yell at my child and – when the youngest (now seven and also one of those testosterone balls) was there – would never settle quarrels between my offspring with punishment. Positive, positive, positive. How hard could it be? Didn’t I want nothing more than a nice, cozy atmosphere in the house, with two exemplary little things on the couch?
It is Sunday morning, about nine years later, when I wake up from a loud bang in the living room. The youngest starts to roar, the oldest shouts furiously over it and the dog barks to wake up the neighbors. I check the alarm clock: 6:30 am. All the people. How old are they at all? Is it really too much to ask to just watch TV when you really can’t sleep anymore? And by the way: the rule is not to get up before seven o’clock.
I hurry downstairs and open the door to the living room. “Are you completely crazy?” I scream. “It’s Sunday morning, what’s going on here?” My sleeping voice makes my screams sound even more hysterical than I already am and my haircut looks like Cruella de Vil’s. I must look ridiculous.
My boys start to line up next to each other. Youngest with a flushed face, oldest with my motorcycle helmet on his head. “He pushed me off the couch”, the youngest sobs. “Yes, but he wanted to tell you that we were free running,” elder grumbles from behind his fogged visor. Between the sofa, ottoman and loveseat is a trail of cushions and the dog bed to break their traps. “And your motorcycle helmet is really good for safety, Mom.”
Clicking, free-running around the house, getting up before seven, illegally using my motorcycle helmet – and do I detect candy wrappers on the coffee table? My twenty step-by-step plans to positive parenting have fixed laundry lists for each of the violations with how to tackle this mainly ‘correctly’ and ‘positively’. After all, the children let me lie in bed, were – although illegal – still sweetly busy together and if I’m very honest: isn’t this actually a hilarious scene? They even thought about how to do their stunt work safely. But before I realize it, I burst into a rant that has nothing to do with my positive views. “You never listen.”
Positive parenting: this is how you do it>
This is not the intention. We would be a trinity, sparkling with positivity. Strong through trust and belief in each other and unconditional support in any situation. I would accompany them, but not conduct them. Prizes, not punishments. Asking questions instead of scolding. My home would be a safe haven where my boys would grow up to be confident, positive lads, who would always act well and righteously on their own.
Now they are timidly in their boxer shorts in the loveseat, close together (advantage of my tirade: the fight is over) and I am so stiff with adrenaline that sleeping in is no longer an option. It must be different. Because if I’m honest, I’ve only heard myself shouting no for ages. Threatening with days without an iPad and er, it’s really true: swearing. Did I really say an idiot to my child?
From now on I am the mother of the petting zoo. Strong and positive; an ever sweet, stimulating rock in the surf. I put my iPad with positive parenting sites back on my bedside table to be on the safe side. I could use some freshening up.
Look, I know the Rules well. I have to offer my children a safe and stimulating environment, in which they learn to deal with emotions and feelings, and where they play and learn more from life and friends than from the iPad. In which I have to let them go a bit and learn that they are allowed to make mistakes. I have to support them positively. Praise and appreciate, and talk to them in a respectful tone. I have to take advantage of spontaneous learning moments, teach them to listen by also telling about myself, learn to solve problems and discover why talking is important.
They can be disciplined. So I have to be consistent. They learn that they are responsible for their own behavior and that it is important to consider the feelings and wishes of others. Get them self-control and sometimes just ignore negative goodbyes. Reward positive behavior rather than punish negative behavior. Oh, and of course I also have to have realistic expectations, because everyone is different. As if I wrote those books myself. But then, isn’t it really just the basics of parenting in general? Okay, apart from my occasional ‘loser’ or ‘gag’ then, but it shouldn’t become wimps either.
Positive parenting is fun, but my children have to participate in a society that is simply not made of cotton candy and good intentions. Besides, I am the educator here, and I am simply the type I don’t sugarcoat shit, I’m not Willy Wonka – a phrase I once read on Pinterest. But you can overdo it.
A drunken elder because he cannot invite a boyfriend this afternoon, may respond a little better to ‘I see and understand that you are fed up with it, make an appointment for tomorrow, when your brother does not have swimming lessons’ then on my obvious’ hoods whining ‘. “What a mess you have made of it” does not sound very nice and stimulating when they have just tried to make breakfast for the first time. And a fixed order in the morning ritual works better than my continuous ‘hurry up!’. In my mind I admonish myself: I almost look like a drill sergeant, instead of a positive nurturing mother. This can really improve.
In the following weeks I notice that it is actually enough if I am a little more mindful. After I catch myself one morning again, like an army sergeant, brushing my kids teeth and having breakfast, I sit down with them at leisure and say, “You know, sometimes I’m just so tired of you guys every time. warn. That way everything takes a lot more time, while I much rather do fun things with you. Do you understand that? ”
To my amazement, the next morning it is peace and quiet, and the oldest even made breakfast. His angry mood after I quietly put his Nerf gun aside because he shot his brother three times despite warnings, results in a spontaneous cup of coffee in bed with a heartfelt excuse.
We talk and philosophize. Could that one bully in class act like that because he himself isn’t happy or insecure? How do you react when you lose a game? The three of us assemble a table from old stone partitions (of course it can handle a sander, let go) and when the youngest hands me a gnawed nectarine in a sticky container, I ask very dry: “What could you do with it? ? ” The half-full candy bag on the floor has immediately disappeared when I cheerfully shout: “Oh, how nice that you share your candy with the dog.”
It’s in the nuance, but I really notice a difference. I actually know how to raise two pretty positive guys. Without a sugar coating and with the necessary drill instructions in between. Suckers will remain of course – just look how much they break – but positive.
This article has previously appeared in Kek Mama.
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