When my daughter Maya was a baby, I made the mistake of thinking it was my job – my duty – to teach her boundaries and to effectively control her. We had some struggles over this as you might imagine – she didn’t like it and for a while I tried to hold on to the “because I said so” method of parenting.
But I was never very good at it.
After a natural birth in a drug-free birthing center, I carried Maya in a sling till she was a toddler and preferred the stroller. She nursed until she was three years old and although she had a crib, she often spent the night in the bed with Joshua and me, or would join us mid-way through the night.
Once I let go of thinking that this type of parenting was a weakness, our home became a happier place.
Of course no parent or home is perfect, and I still lose my temper on occasion – still say things for which I later apologize – but I am very far away from the person who thought that a crying baby was some sort of test of wills – one I had to win or be a failure as a parent.
Now I have two happy kids who marvel at the bad relationships other kids have with their parents, and wisely comment that “the kids have a good reason to be upset – the parents are being mean!”
Parenting should never be undertaken as a power trip. It is not a test of wills which you must win or risk raising a “spoiled” or “entitled” child. In fact, most of the time kids who are treated as fully human with all the rights and emotions afforded thereto are respectful, empathetic and giving.
It’s not about being the perfect parent; there is no such thing. It’s about the willingness to see your children as people who need your love, protection and guidance, not your condescension, blame and ridicule. It’s about giving up the role of all powerful dictator, which in any case is an illusion, and embracing the power of love and communication.
And it’s never too late to start.