Last month, I posted about the book Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control. The book was really helpful in reminding me that traumatized kids are easily re-traumatized and that I need to get a handle on my own stress if I don’t simply want to make matters worse.
I am making progress– but more slowly than I’d like. The techniques definitely work over time; it’s just so hard to implement them consistently. The holidays were really challenging in this regard.
Amongst the things I’ve realized is that — doh! — having 5 kids makes for a very noisy household. Having a 2-, 3-, and 4-year-old makes this even more true. And finally, my own cortisol levels shoot up when there is a lot of noise. Noise for me equals chaos, and chaos triggers fear. Perhaps this is true to some extent for everyone; it seems a bit exaggerated in me.
When it gets very loud, whether playful loud or because of crying, I tend to start yelling to try to take control. I recognize this is a stress response– it’s just hard to remember not to do it! I am finding that if I take just two deep breaths when I feel the stress (aka fear) building in me, I can make a more reasonable response.
My little ones respond really well to simple things, like turning off the lights briefly or ringing a bell. Once I have their attention, I can quiet them without yelling over the din. This is way more effective with my traumatized former foster kids.
Purposeful parenting is hard work; there is no doubt about it. After yelling at the whole crew the other day, I apologized and told them I would do better, that “good mommies and daddies never mean to scare their children.” Then I took my upset 3-year-old to the rocking chair for some quality “mommy time.” Later, my 15-year-old reflected that she was noticing that parenting seems to require a lot of self-correcting and changing the plan. This comment alone made a hard day totally worth it. I told her that purposeful parenting, is “easier said, than done” and is definitely a course of 3 steps forward, two steps back.
Isn’t that true with all meaningful relationships? We can have a plan or course; it is often helpful to do so. Yet we also need to be constantly reevalutating, readjusting and employing the occasional “do-over.”
Happy parenting this week!