Bigger Stronger Wiser Kind
Oct 14, 2014
I'm frequently asked in my job "Are you really this patient with your own children?" The truth is I too am a mere mortal, and have just as many challenges being a mother as anyone else. I like to imagine I have a parenting toolbox, and along the way I add tools and strategies that really work. When things aren't going so well in my parenting experiences I remind myself of my good old faithful toolbox strategies... and then I'm back on track.
Feeling well equipped to deal with the tougher moments of parenting probably does make it seem that I'm very patient. But I know in my heart that I desperately need good strategies that work, so that I can do my best in my most important job of raising my own 5 children.
One of my favourite tools comes from a well known therapist training program called Circle of Security. This is a relationship/attachment focused therapy program - and I frequently use their resources and principles in therapy sessions. I love their parenting mantra "Be Bigger Stronger Wiser and Kind". They explain that we all have a tendency to miss a part of this mantra... but we need to practice all of it for our parenting to work well. So breaking down the mantra can help us see where our own weak spots are, and help us to take the next step of adding tools to our toolkit to overcome our weak spots.
Where is your weak spot?
If we are just bigger, stronger and wiser but aren't kind... then we are actually being mean.
Children are little, and to them we are huge! So when we yell at them or use our harsh mother or teacher voice it can sound magnified and intimidating to them. When we hit them we are scary. Even if we just slap them on the hand it feels demeaning and demoralising on a big scale. If we are angry, we need to learn how to express our anger without scaring them or hurting them... as ultimately we want to empower them to be them to do the same in their own lives.
Often a good test of whether we have ventured into mean territory is to consider how we would feel if a colleague or our spouse treated us this way. How would we feel if we touched a colleagues brand new iPad and our work colleague hit our hand, or worse - our backside. How would we feel if we'd had a rough day and burst into tears over our concerns, and our spouse sent us to our room to settle down and think about it? There are lots of effective tools for implementing our boundaries and communicating our frustrations without being mean... but it takes time and practice to learn them.
If we are just being kind, but aren't taking charge (bigger, stronger, wiser) then we are being weak.
I believe we as parents are responsible for our children. I have limits and boundaries about what is expected and acceptable, and I do have an awareness of a child's developmental stage and abilities in setting my expectations. Sometimes, if it is acceptable to me, I am happy to negotiate on particular issues. Other times my child might not be happy about the situation, but my boundary will remain firm. In my experience, parents who are clear with their boundaries and who are proactive in implementing them are able to stay in a kind state... with the right balance of gentleness and firmness. And sometimes we need more tools in our toolkit to help us do that in real life.
If we aren't taking charge (we are doing none of the bigger, stronger, wiser and kind) then we just aren't there... even if we are there.
It's hard, there are just so many distractions... tell me about it! But what our children yearn for most is to have moments through the day where we stop and just be with them. Where we shut the screen down, where we turn and give them our full attention (eye contact, touch, listening ears) when they need us. It's tough, but responding and being responsive to their needs means that we don't become reactive.
So I know I need all of these aspects (bigger, stronger, wiser, kind) to be able to do my best for our kids.
I have developed my own simpler mantra as a mother and as an occupational therapist: "firm and kind, firm and kind, firm and kind" - in the busy swing of life it's easier for me to remember a shorter mantra! For me firm and kind sums up where I want to be. And so yes, it may appear that I'm very patient. But it is my toolkit of approaches that work that I've collected over the years that empower me.
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