I know I'm months and months behind, but right now I'm reading and trying to complete The Gentleness Challenge, from Womenlivingwell.org. I have definitely been struggling as a mother of two small children (my daughter is 4 and my baby boy is just now 10 months old), losing my patience too quickly and raising my inside voice to levels only really meant for outdoor purposes. It's only my daughter I get upset with -I look at the baby and think well he's far too little to know what the right thing to do is, so nothing he does at all phases me, and yet I am so quick to expect a 4 year old to react and behave as a responsible human being would. It doesn't make sense really, does it? She's just a baby too, and I need to remember that.
It's the times when "I'm trying to do something!", as I'll scream, that I comp,etely lose all patience and rational expectations of her. She's pulling her brother's toys from his little hands, leaving him distraught and crying on the floor while she skips around him, waving whatever it is she has taken. She is yelling at me 20 times when I've answered her the first second I heard my name. But she knows she doesn't have my full attention and so she says my name another 19 times, at which point I want to scream, I want to yell (and sometimes do) "I heard you the first time!". Then I'll fully turn to her, my eyes to hers, and ask nicely what she wanted. She'll make up something right then and ere, clearly having only yelled my name so many times to get my attention back to her from whatever it is I was doing.
If I'm on the phone to my best girlfriend who lives far away, as I try to be a few times a week, she will act up even more than usual, pulling her brother around until he cries again, carrying him from room to room, chasing after me. The noise is unbearable, and I feel my temperature rising. I inevitably shriek something and storm to the other room, apologise to my friend and try to keep talking. Se has things she needs to discuss with me and I feel torn between knowing she needs me and knowing that my daughter is desperately trying to get my attention.
This is all normal behaviour for a 4 year old child. My own mother has told me how my brother and I would always "act up" when she was on the phone when we were little. My expectations of my daughter are way too high, I've realised of late. She is a baby too, despite the fact that her vocabulary rivals my own and she knows so so very much. It is up to me to help her more, be there for her more, and model what I wan to do. She yells, for example -I wonder where she got that from. Instead of waiting for her to calm down so I can finish my phone call, I should just go to her more readily. I should gve her my eyes when she calls my name the first time, and I should start packing up blocks with her instead of insisting that she is old enough to do it herself. The Gentleness Challenge is making me rethink all the ways in which I could be more gentle. I need to soften my voice to my daughter like I do for the baby, and go to her level I instead of staying up high where I seem so unreachable. I need to be way more gentle for my daughter, to keep our love and our bond strong. It is true that our harsh words and loud tones turn our children further apart from us. They do not respond well to that. They will respond better to love and attention. Already I have seen a change - when I soften myself and instruc my daughter where before I was being too hard on her, she looks at me differently, she responds more willingly, and it makes both of us feel better.
Have you tried The Gentleness Challenge? Search it and Womenlivingwell on google and you can find the 4 weeks of the challenge.