Ouch. Lire just butted his head into the wall as he was falling asleep. It doesn't wake him, believe it or not. The noise is loud enough to get me running downstairs to make sure there are no hi-jinks, or worse, head injuries. There never are. Just Lire under his pillow, legs up the wall, or head against it. Bonk.
The book I alluded to last post is Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort. I don't have it in front of me, and I don't want to write an exhaustive review of it. Frankly, I'm a bit tired (it's the last day of an eleven day vacation, people), so I'll let you know why I think it's helpful and all that good stuff.
First off, it shares a lot in common with this book, which I've discussed briefly in the past, and which mimiboo writes really eloquently about in regards to her children. The biggest thing that they share, for me, is that they address the parents' reactions, behaviors, what-have-you in relation to their child's behaviors. Beyond Consequences discusses the triggers that set the parent off into his/her own maelstrom of fear and reaction, generally originating way back when. Identifying the triggers and one's reactions help one to slow down, analyze what's really going on, and hopefully allowing the parent to identify for the child the possible reasons for his/her behavior. Mimiboo gives a great example in the post I linked to above.
Aldort's book also helps the parent to look at his/her own reactions by slowing down and surveying a situation before reacting. She uses an acronym, SALVE: Stand back and survey the situation. Pay Attention to your child. Listen. Validate and Empower. The key letter for me was the V -- validate. Not only do I find that I often do not validate my children's reasons for outbursts and questionable behaviors, I'm repeating the actions of my parents. Who are WONDERFUL, don't get me wrong. I cried a lot as a kid. Some do, some do other things. This was a Big Deal in the family. It was discussed, teased, jeered, and yes, scorned. I understand. I find L's frequent crying a bit hard to deal with. But I'm treating him the way I really, really hated being treated. I'm not validating his sadness.
For me, validation equals compassion. Breaking down the word compassion, it means "suffering with." It doesn't mean spoiling. It just acknowledges that something -- something that to us doesn't mean so much, or something we can't even know -- has made the child cry, or hit, or scream, or throw toys down the stairs. When I turn down my roiling Italian/Irish blood, I can more easily see what may be the trigger. And I try to calmly identify this thing in an objective way. "you might feel hurt that Habtamu said Grace by himself (real example). That might be why you hit him." In this instance I waited a bit, and the Pucker fish (see previous entry) stopped pursing his lips, reversed the Ethiopian head-fake and looked at me with the biggest, saddest eyes. The screaming lasted a little less long than usual. We were able to go back to dinner and finish our pasta. Previously I might be so ticked at the hitting that I might berate him for it, saying that H saying Grace alone wasn't a good enough reason for hitting, yadda, yadda. To me it isn't a good enough reason, but to Lire, apparently it is.
Anyway, this may be elementary to you seasoned parents, and others may be saying, yeah, and?
For me, validating my own sadness and crying from Way-Back-When helps me to slow down. I have a harder time with disrespect, sadly. It really pushes my buttons! I'm trying to go back and think about when I've been disrespected and how it made me feel, how maybe I felt powerless at the time. This allows me to better see that our guys may feel powerless a good bit of the time and find my sometimes bossy ways a bit much.
The two books also share concepts I've been exploring in Buddhism and Siddha yoga. Bear with me! Nothing too esoteric. Just the idea that anger is mostly one's own thoughts wheeling about one's mind, not the actual event that precipitated the initial feeling. We've all been there: Someone says or does something which p's us off. A lot. Our mind starts cycling -- "she always does that! I bet she's going to go home and tell so-and-so. She probably thinks she's smarter than I am..." blah, blah, blah.
Those swirling thoughts make us angrier and angrier until we have a whole movie in our heads of our being wronged. Whatever precipitated our response, it's over. Buddhism advises us to acknowledge that thing, look at it as an observer, watch our feelings surrounding it, our thoughts, and then... let them loosen. Let them go. Practicing this a lot makes it easier as time goes on.
Aldort's book discusses how important it is for us to do this for our kids, to teach them not to wallow, not to attach to negative feelings. Something happened which made us sad, angry, whatever. Name this thing. Allow yourself to feel it, experience it, and then let it go. Easier said than done, but I'm working on it.
Today Al was wrestling with the boys on the rug. He had pinned H's arms with his legs, which H usually (why?) enjoys. All of a sudden he started to wail, to cry, to panic. Of course, Al let him go. He was bemused and went into the kitchen to check on dinner. Here goes mom, "It must be scary to be pinned like that." H shakes his head no. "Maybe you weren't sure he was going to let you go." H nods his head, we hug. H enters the kitchen, tears still glistening on his cheeks: "Daddy, you no catch me!" and runs into the living room, apparently ready for more.
Doesn't sound earth-shattering, I know. However, a few months ago that crying would have turned into a high-pitched scream, following us around the house, knocking over random objects, not looking me in the eye (whenever H was upset, he would transfer his negative feelings to me. Yay!). I know a lot has to do with increased language acquisition, but the fact that he came to me for comfort, and I could give it and not feel worn out and empty. Well, that is good.
Of course, most people probably don't need parenting books to help them be effective parents. I am a reader, however. And when I find parallels between books and an established spiritual tradition, I listen.
An added caveat: I am not doing either book or Buddhism enough justice. I wanted to show you the gleanings I found helpful and that resonated with me.
Below: Lire in mid-sleep. Note the foot poking out from under the pillow.