There are so many parenting experts out there, and they all have an opinion about the way we should be parenting.
I have a library of parenting books I've collected since I first conceived of the idea of having a baby, and ever since I had my first baby bump people have taken it upon themselves to offer me parenting advice (even strangers in the street!).
While there are many parenting books that I do love (like this one and this one for example), I'm not an advocate of following one particular parenting lineage or methodology. And I'm definitely not an advocate of over-riding your own intuition in order to do what the 'experts' tell you to do.
I love working with new parents. It's an absolute honour to teach yoga teachers about perinatal mental health and to sit with new mothers and fathers and support them to navigate the ups and downs of having a new baby. It's a sacred time, and I feel so honoured to walk beside parents during this time.
A question I get asked regularly from parents is how to deal with their child's challenging behaviour.
And my answer is inevitably, "you get your own needs met".
You see, as parents, WE'RE the experts on our children. And when OUR needs are getting met, we naturally and intuitively respond to our children's needs. Including their challenging behaviours.
This works in two ways.
Firstly, when our needs are getting met, we're happier. And when we're happier, the whole family is happier. Sound too simple to be true? Trust me, it's not. My husband's mantra since the birth of our first child has been "happy mama, happy baby," and I've been endlessly grateful for this. Children are sensitive beings, and they pick up on our moods. When we're stressed and strung out, they feel it. When we're happy and fulfilled, they feel that too.
Secondly, when we're stressed, over-tired and unhappy, it's very difficult to deal with the demands of parenting. Our tolerance thresholds are low and it's hard to cope. Children have needs, LOTS of needs, and we cannot hope to meet them if our own needs are not being met.
To meet the needs of others, our own cup needs to be full. Giving to others when our cup is full and overflowing feels effortless. Giving when our cup is empty, feels a lot like hard work. Resentment is likely to build up, and this seeps out in all sorts of unconscious ways like yelling and storming out of the room.
Think of it like this; getting your own needs met is like putting on your own mask in an airplane crash before you put on your child's. Not because parenting is like a plane crash, but because we can't meet our children's needs if we have nothing left to give.
When we're feeling fulfilled and happy in our lives, it's so much easier to cope with the tears, the throwing things, the refusals to go to bed and the defiant "NO!". When our cup is full, we can allow our children to fully express their emotions and desires without feeling like we're loosing control. We can hold the space for them to do what ever they need to do in that moment and we can tune into our intuition and take clear and loving action that is in the best interest of everyone involved.
So, here's my invitation. Don't read this article and let it be just another 'nice' idea.
Instead, close your eyes, take and couple of breaths, and ask yourself "what do I need in this moment?"
Then go and do it (or if you can't do it right away, send someone an SMS and make a date for them to watch the kids so you can do it some time very soon)!
If you don't believe me, try is as an experiment. For the next week, make your own needs a priority. And see how it affects your children and your ability to be the parent you want to be.
Leave me a comment below about your experience with getting your needs met, I'd love to hear it.