Thursday, January 15, 2015

What I have learned 2014

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I don't have a lot to share in this what I learned post.  Maybe I learned a lot, maybe I need to go read back through 2014's journal but this year felt a little bit like circling back on myself, not really making much progress. When I thought about what I learned I really only came back to this one thing:

Gentleness 
This year I made an attempt to choose gentle correction and encouragement over yelling, lecturing, and a lot of strong discipline. Towards the end of last year I had a conversation that changed how I parent. I was talking to a mom with a son who was just little older than mine and who was having some of the same behavior troubles at school as Josiah. We were talking about how disciplines weren't working for our sons and she said "the only thing that has really worked has been praise"

I took this advice to heart and worked on encouraging Josiah. We didn't have long talks about his behavior or have strong negative disciplines for bad behavior. If it was a really really bad day he'd write a note to his teacher, that's about it, some of his electronic privileges depended on his behavior but he didn't get yelled at. And you want to know what? It worked. He still has bad days and gets off track but not like last year and for the most part he is listening better at home.

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I was already practicing gentle parenting strategies with Eli and noticing how well it was working. I was talking to my sister about how happy I was with this new parenting style and she said "the real test will be how well it works with your other kids" and I really started making an effort towards gentleness with the rest of my kids. 

The difference is epic.

Working on encouraging my kids every chance I get about every improvement in their behavior has worked. Telling them how much I love them, telling them when I notice that they really tried to stay under control or respond better. I don't lecture. I sit with them. I try to understand what is going on. I try to empathize. I try to let them say their piece. And yeah, life is still crazy and loud and my kids fight but I'm yelling less, and they are listening better. Win-win.

I've noticed the difference the most in my oldest. Beth is impossible to discipline. I have been tearing  my hair out for the last thirteen years trying to think of a discipline that will make a dent. If you send her to her room she shrugs and acts like she loves to be alone. If you take away one privilege she sighs, rolls her eyes and moves on. Like she's thinking "these silly parents." You can yell, lecture, punish - nothing. Until praise. I am trying to listen more, talk less. I'm trying to remember to say sorry and try to notice when she does something well. I started hugging her more, whether she wanted it or not. Eventually she started hugging back. She started becoming more empathetic towards me and has started noticing when I am starting to get stressed out and will give me a hug. This means everything to me. She also stated volunteering at church and between the praise she has started getting at home and the praise and sense of responsibility that she has found there I can see that is has just made the biggest difference in the world.

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I've noticed a big difference in Katie-Abigail too. She is my toughest kid. She is my zero-to-sixty baby, the one that refused to co-sleep, and who weaned herself early. She is my one who is constantly coming at me out of left-field. She is my kid who will get emotionally flooded really quickly - and then becomes nonverbal. She is hilarious and sweet but she is a handful. Switching gears to listen more, to go slowly with her and talk about strategies for next time has seen her overall stress levels go down. We feel like we are on the same team now.  I see her smiling more, exploding less and it feels like another huge stride in raising her well.

I've also tried to embrace gentleness with myself. I try to stop myself when I notice that I'm mentally beating myself up. I have begun to realize that all of who I am is created by God in His image. My weakness, even areas of temptation are still part of God's image - skewed by sin, cloudy and broken but there and that in my salvation the image of God has a chance to be restored in every area of my life. I am dropping the heavy load of mommy-guilt and resting in God's provision for my family - and me. I'm seeking Jesus' way, seeing the unforced rhythms of grace. I am embracing the reality that I am going to have grumpy days and pushed-to-my limit nights and that my kids are going to have to hear I'm sorry and hopefully somehow in all my mess God is redeeming.

That is what has worked for me. How about you?

1 comment:

  1. Gentle really does make a difference. It was my one word last year and it honestly changed me as I live trying to be more gentle with others and most especially with myself!

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