Aware Parenting seems a ridiculous name for a method of raising children. Lets face it, children by nature TOTALLY envelop our awareness. Their cries, their laughter, their endless and endearing requests and questions. But everything needs a name when it is created by humanity 😉 aspects of this style we have been practicing for eons! but as a specific method “Aware Parenting” is something I have been learning about.
Everyone adores their children…most of the time…but lets be honest kids can behave in ways that are undesirable or plain inconvenient for parents. Whining, hitting, bitting, indecisiveness, big reactions to small things, shouting and screaming and the ever so dreaded zombi inducing sleep patterns. From my perspective this method is about being aware of WHY these behaviours occur. “Well obviously they are miniature evil geniuses plotting to annoy, manipulate and induce thoughts of insanity” says the mind of every exhausted parent alive. While our minds may repeat this over and over we know our kids are wonderful people so lets come up with a different explanation. Infact Aware Parenting has three;
- They have an unmet need – hungry, tired, cold or that of connection.
- They have something they don’t understand.
- They have built up painful feelings e.g. frustration, powerlessness or sadness.
Aware parenting also talks about the 3 C’s. Three things humans want to do in life.
What it is trying to establish in our minds is valid reasons for behaviour that seems negative and empathy from the parent in guiding the child through their unmet needs. I really identify with this view. Children are growing so fast, their world and understanding is constantly shifting, they are learning every minute of the day (including what is expected of them from society). It is SO FREAKIN MUCH and developmentally they simply can not express their frustrations like an adult (hell some adults can’t express their frustration like an adult). Note that I am no saint in my mental management, my blood has boiled with anger at 2am when Boston decided he was ready for a party, my mind racing “he is a crazy child who will NEVER sleep at night EVER! I HATE MY WORLD!!!” (note this is not an accurate thought, Boston does sleep at night and I actually LOVE my world)
The aim is to manage behaviour while allowing the child to fulfil their three C’s CONNECTION, CO-OPERATION, CONTRIBUTION. No punishment, bribes, or returning the screaming/crying match. What tha?? How tha?? PLAYING OF COURSE!!!!! Once you have met the need for food, water, warm clothes or exhaustion then look to connection, confusion and built up emotions.
With busy lives, small families and a million distractions connection can often prove difficult. A tool I have embraced is simply getting down on their level and giving eye contact when ever possible. I squat down and look Boston right in his eyes, I have been really conscience of doing this in the past two weeks, my reward MORE HUGS. Another tool is to put time aside that is completely for your childs attention. Even ten minutes, and yes you can time it or let them time it! Do what ever they want, just be present to their desires, your totally theirs (no Facebook, no phone calls, no trying to have a cup of tea). It can be great just before your needing to accomplish something, giving them their connection fix and setting them on the way for independent play.
Confusion can be confusing because sometimes we do not even know what they are confused about. CONFUSED?? Take time to explain what is happening and why, you do not need a moving monologue (says the queen of unnecessary essays), keep it short and simple and easy to understand from their point of view. Children will not always understand, they may be too young to grasp why, but getting in the habit of communicating will be beneficial in the long run.
When at all possible turn your daily activities into games. You feel really weird when your getting them dressed with undies over your head…but they will laugh and you will too. Boston hated his face being wiped after eating…well now I play this dart in and out peak a boo game, occasionally cleaning my own face with massive exaggeration. 8 times out of 10 I get laughter not cries. Laughter releases built up emotion so it is super important.
Play can release all sorts of feelings and you can adapt your games to specific situations.
Power-Reversals – When they get to be the one who wins, your the clumsy incompetent one, let them frighten you or catch you or knock you over.
Nonsense Play – Be a complete goofy clown. Make it ridiculous. Make obvious mistakes, fall down (remember children often seem this way just trying to achieve tasks, let them see you be vulnerable as well)
Separation Games – The favourite past time of peek a boo actually helps children to expect you to return. It helps with separation anxiety. Hide and seek also falls in this category.
Symbolic Play – This is one I will try with Boston when he can understand, it is good for moving through traumatic experience eg. surgery/hospital stays etc. Let them be the doctor and you the patient. My friend also did this with her little girl who was afraid of dogs, she got to be the dog while her mum was her feeling scared. Dog phobia gone 🙂
Body Contact – Play wrestle, pillow fights etc…remember you need to keep it safe and stop the game if things get dangerous.
Non-directive child-centered play – This is when you just stay present and take cues from exactly what they want to do. No instruction or “development goal” purely indulging their wants…within reason 😉
Okay now there is one more aspect that I am beginning to learn about (more info soon) that is pretty vital. EMBRACE THE TEARS!! Laughter processes emotion YUP and so does crying. We often attempt to distract our child at all cost when they begin to whine, cry or full blown red face runny nose bulging vein tantrum. So crazy thought…how about we don’t do that. At a workshop we paired up to do an activity where one person spoke about something that was very upsetting and the other had to distract them the way you would a kid. Toy in face, asking if they want a cookie, phone games, singing songs, clapping etc etc etc…do this activity!!! It is powerful.
Sometimes kids need to just get it out. Be there with them, look in their eyes, hold them if they will let you or just sit with them if not, let them cry and scream. If you have ever had a good cry over something you will know how healing it can be. I have started using this with Boston, it has been really effective with his interrupted sleep. When he is tossing and turning EVERY GODDAM HOUR letting out little whines…I pick him up and hold him tight…the back arching and screaming begins. Five minutes later he will usually calm, he lies down lets out a big sigh and I don’t hear him until morning.
If you want to read a little more about this stuff I like this post by sagacious mama (you don’t need to read it all) and Katesurfs has lots on this style parenting including THIS one and THIS one. The workshop I attended was run my Marion Rose who is a really beautiful person with a lot of tools in her built. Marion’s website is www.parentingwithpresence.net, it has LOTS of information.
Before I let you go I want to say something. I have read, heard about and lived many different parenting philosophies and I believe these will only multiply as time goes on. There are different aspects from many that I identify with and some I completely do not understand. Like I wrote in one of my past posts we are bombarded with advice as parents and we need to discover the tools that fit our lives and our children best. Members of different philosophies have all out wars in cyber world, it is emotional and heated and often hurtful. I recently found myself becoming self righteous (within my own mind) and I had to stop and think of JF Kennedy “If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” Yes there are some tools I would never use (or condone), but I do truly believe we are all doing our best and we all want the same thing…for our children to be happy. This blog is about sharing tools and inspiration, it is not a declaration of what is wrong and right.