Why is parenting so hard? There's one question you need to ask…
When I became a mom, I tried to tick all the boxes to help me be a good mom.
And then I learned I was asking the wrong questions.
I signed up for my first class before I'd even given birth. Prenatal classes taught me about breastfeeding, infant massage, how to identify my baby's needs. As my kids grew, I moved to parenting books. They helped me understand my kid's behavior and advised me connect at their level.
Then came a harsher reality: Applying what I'd read in my real life.
Here I stumbled.
I remembered all the information in the books but could I apply them in the moment?
- When a fight broke out between my kids?
- When one refused to go get their schoolbag and stood glaring at me?
- When another threw themselves on the floor because I gave them water, not juice?
At that point, understanding their behavior flew out the window. Could I connect on their level?
I was wired. I was angry or confused. I was frustrated, even though I desperately wanted to be calm with them.
Because I was still asking the wrong questions.
I Was Learning Lots But Applying Little
I took the Hand in Hand starter class and learned five simple tools in that class. They were priceless. They worked well in so many situations, but I still struggled to use them sometimes. when my kids' behavior moved off-track.
And I wanted desperately to know why I couldn't apply them when I need to? Even when I knew how well they worked. Why couldn't I respond to them how I wanted when their behavior triggered me?
Those were kind of the right questions. Almost.
The Right Question Was So Simple I Was Amazed
It took a wise and caring instructor who asked me the right question for the first time.
And that question wasn't even about my children or their behavior.
By then, I'd registered to certify as an instructor with Hand in Hand. I'd seen enough changes in my own family that I knew I wanted to teach this approach to others.
But I hadn't yet connected every piece in the puzzle.
In fact, I was still missing the most vital piece. The piece that would finally help me be the parent I wanted to be. That calm, open, responsive parent that i'd read about. That I craved to be.
That kind of parent that had, until that point, eluded me, despite all my diligence and hard work.
There was a stressful health situation in my family at that time and I happened to mention it to my instructor.
She asked the right question.
And it was so simple, I was floored.
Why Was This Simple Question The Right Question?
“How are you feeling?”
That's what she asked.
And why was this so astounding?
Why was this such a mind shift for me?
Because in all the books, in all the research, the endless quest for information on how to parent well, no-one had ever asked me how I was.
Right then, stifled by the weight of illness and stress, disease and worry, no-one had asked how I was.
Sure, I'd been told what I should do, what could help my family, why I needed to be strong for my kids.
But it was so hard.
Our Triggers Stop Us Acting On Advice and Good Intentions
I considered her question, which she'd asked which such love and concern and care, and tears rolled down my cheeks.
I wasn’t doing well.
I'd bottled up so much more than I could deal with.
Her compassion helped me open up about my worries and apprehensions, the fatigue of having to do so much all the time.
I knew she wouldn't judge me.
Suddenly someone cared!
After a good cry, and letting all my feelings spill out, something unexpected happened. The problems that had felt so insurmountable now seemed manageable. I could think again once my load had lightened.
I actually felt light-hearted!
That question changed everything!
That was my introduction to Listening Partnerships, the fifth tool in the Hand in Hand Parenting approach.
After that, I scheduled listening partnerships on a regular basis. Week after week I had a chance to figure out how I was feeling. And I had a chance to feel that alongside compassion, acceptance, and love. I was able to open up and explore why certain situations or events made my feelings erupt.
I talked about parenting and life in general – anything that bothered me. I delved deeper into why that behavior or situation was so triggering. I found a safe place to take my deepest fears, worries, and problems, and I discovered that my most authentic self is a gift.
As I write this post, I am sitting by the ocean. The waves rush towards me crashing one after another. They remind me of the open-heartedness, compassion, and support that each listening partner poured on me.
That one question lead me to be the calm, empathetic parent I wanted to be because I found that having space for my own feelings means I don't implode or explode so much, and I have added patience to listen when my children need to cry or get angry or show frustration.
I discovered that parenting doesn’t have to be a lonely job. It shouldn't be.
My wish for any parent reading this is the same chance to experience this space where we can reach out when things get hard and feel helpless, so we don’t feel isolated and alone in this valuable work that we are doing.
Each of us deserves a chance to find a tribe of people who accepts us and that allows us to be human.
I feel grateful that there is a community where being human is celebrated.
Before that, everything I tried was focused on my children. Why they were doing what they were doing and how I could help. But that way totally drained my cup. And as the saying goes, you can't give from an empty cup.
As a parent, your needs need to be considered as much as your children's, if not more.
Those four little words, that one simple sentence has changed my family for the better.
How are you feeling?
I hope you have someone around to ask you.
Summer with your kids not going to plan? Need a place to ask your parenting questions and get support on the daily? Join our free Hand in Hand Parenting Community Group .