Gentle Parenting

A tantrum frozen in time. 

I remember when I first worked in a primary school. I was young and inexperienced but so excited to finally be working with children, something I had as a goal since I was a young child myself! 
On one especially sunny morning; you know one of those when the breeze is somehow warmer then the actual air– I was the lucky one keeping an eye outside as the children played in the school ground.

I heard laughing coming from a gathering further down the playground and as I approached, it was apparent that something was wrong. A little girl was in the middle of the upheaval, crying. A little boy had taken her “Hello Kitty” keyring, and as most of us parents know, kids can become so attached to objects. This, to me random item, was very special to it’s owner. 

 There were strict rules in place regarding personal belongings being brought in to school to avoid a situation like this. We were instructed to confiscate any personal belongings until the end of the day- very CIA. Unfortunately my detective skills left little to be desired and this one had slipped through the net.

 The children were laughing and whispering as the little girl cried over the loss of her keyring. 

I can’t say that I’ve ever felt this connected to a keyring but I’m sure the girl in question hasn’t had an unhealthy reliance on wine, so who am I to judge. 

When I take myself back to that day, I see it in a different light. I’m a mother now and the thought of this being my child or even worse, that one of my children could be laughing and whispering about someone else’s distress, is horrifying. 

“As most parents, I would hate to be the mother of a child who happily mocked and ridiculed other children. I mean that’s bullying, is it not?”

I would like to think that my children would offer empathy and comfort to an upset child. I would like to think they would be kind. I truly hope that they lead with empathy.

In a world were we have to have campaigns encouraging people to be kind to one and another and celebrities advocating against bullying, it makes sense to question; what’s going so wrong? Why are we not managing to raise empathic, kind children? 

 

My great grandad was a wise man, a man who had answers. I’m pretty sure they were all awesomely insightful but as the majority was said in riddles, my 6 year old self didn’t understand half of them. 

One that must have stuck with my grandmother as well as my mother is the saying that tells us that “children don’t do what we say, they do what we do.” 
 We know this! 

Yet as adults we still partake in ridiculing children. Somehow we expect our children to be kind to others, but are we being good role models? 

Not long ago, a family magazine announced a competition. The winner would be the person who could take the “funniest” picture of a child, mid-tantrum and upload it for the world to see.

So to win you had to photograph your child at a vulnerable moment. Not as a memory for yourself but for the entertainment of others. You were to upload this picture to the everlasting net, forever floating around in cyber space. 

I questioned the publication! I asked them if they really thought this was a morally sound competition! (As a result I was asked to produce a small piece about my feelings that they would consider publishing and alas, here it is albeit slightly altered! It was never published, as you may have guessed) 

The trend of photographing overwhelmed children, mid tantrum, makes me feel uneasy. Don’t get me wrong- when the kids have their 10th meltdown of the day, I have to make a conscious decision to stay calm and empathise and not pull every strand of hair out of my aching head. I have had to turn away as I have struggled to keep a straight face when frustration takes over. I have had to remind myself that bed time is near. Like most other parents, I do find parenting gets on top of me.

But regardless of how many words of annoyance I repeat in my head, I remind myself that “it matters to her/him” and I try my absolute hardest to lead with empathy! In a world with so much anger it’s so important to be kind! 

I especially have to remind myself this when there is an outburst, as a result of me stopping “teddy the bear” from being flushed down the toilet or as a result of asking the 3 year old to draw on paper, not our wall which already tells me he could have a bright future as a graffiti artist. 

I remind myself to recognise their feelings. After all, their brains are brand new. I empathise and I try my hardest to be kind. I do not mock them in their state of distress and I do not ridicule them. I do not photograph them- I respect them. 

After all, when they enter that playground, I want them to be kind and empathic towards other children, but how could they if my husband and I didn’t show them how too! 

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