All of us have experienced parental burnout at some point in our parenting stint. Especially now in the middle of a Pandemic, many of us have lost our support systems and feel like we are juggling 100 things at once. You may find yourself becoming angry and irritated at the littlest requests your child makes. How can you continue Gentle Parenting when you don’t feel okay?
I thought I had figured out all my triggers and knew how to handle myself in the middle of a tantrum. But, then the Pandemic happened, and as I struggled to juggle the new responsibilities thrown my way alongside maintaining a household, I quickly realized how burnt out I felt.
Mom burnout translated into me dismissing my son at times or rushing him through the routine very impatiently. All I wanted was some rest. But, rest was nowhere in sight.
When I saw how my own behavior was adding to the chaos in the home, I knew I had to take a step back and reset.
Related reading : How to deal with mom burnout and be a happier parent again.
GENTLE PARENTING IS NOT EASY
When I mention Gentle parenting, many perceive it as “lazy parenting”. People tend to view the word “gentle” as permissive. But, those of us who practice Gentle parenting know very well, how hard and exhausting it can get.
Gentle parenting does not rely on environments that manipulate a response from the child but instead we accept all of the child for whatever he/she is.
Instead of manipulating or punishing we work to gain co-operation by taking into account a young child’s brain development and set age appropriate expectations.
Gentle parenting means that we accept their emotions and uncomfortable behaviors and work with them in a way that suits their unique personality.
All of this is mentally exhausting for parents and at times when you are in the thick of it, you may even wonder, are you are doing it right? Is gentle parenting worth it?
Yes, it is! And you are doing your best!
Believe me, we have all gone through these motions as parents.
It is hard to do the work every day, right? There are moments when you may loose your calm and scream your lungs out. Does that mean, now all of a sudden you are not a good parent.
One moment, or even a few moments don’t define our lives. Gentle Parenting is definitely a work in progress.
Here is how I manage to be a Gentle parent even when I don’t feel okay.
Hopefully, this post will come as an encouragement to you on days you are burnt out and don’t have it in you to parent any more. I get it mama, its not easy. But, it is important that we don’t feel like failures.
Parenting requires a lot of work.
Acknowledging our weak moments and needs and reflecting on them makes us better parents.
These moments become our guidance in the next moment of stress and help us bridge the gaps and connect with our kids.
Related reading : How to stop being an angry mom?
HELPFUL TIPS FOR GENTLE PARENTING WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL OKAY
The first thing that can help when you feel overwhelmed by motherhood is to slow down.
Take a hard look at your family schedule.
Many of us are conditioned to think of moms as Superhuman.
We are so used to seeing that image of a Supermom with many hands doing multiple things all at once.
But, we don’t need to do it all. Our homes don’t need to be perfect all the time, we don’t need to do 100 structured activities to help our children learn but we definitely do need to take care of ourselves above all else.
Write down everything on your schedule on a piece of paper and prioritize what tasks are must-do’s everyday, which ones can be done once in a while and where you can allocate help with tasks.
Slow down and reflect on how things have been. Are you getting the support you need? Are you voicing your needs? Do you need new routines or family systems?
Only when you take a breather and analyze your life circumstances can you change things and help yourself cope better.
Take a deep breath in the moment
Each of us have anger triggers. Personally for me, I have seen how successful gentle parenting is at handling toddler tantrums and aggression. In moments when I feel weak and exhausted to do the calm and patient work I cling onto these past successful experiences like little glimmers of hope.
I take a deep breath, say out loud, “I am getting angry” , “I need to calm down, give me a minute”. Walk away to a quiet spot. Drink some water or stand by my window for some fresh air.
By doing this in a moment of stress, I model for my child what regulation looks like.
Your child sees you and will use these same coping strategies the next time he feels stressed.
Related reading : How to be a calm parent : Gentle parenting techniques for regulation.
Ask for help
Get help. Really, do it. When there is no respite and you feel like parenting life is relentless, ask for help.
If there is no help available, use other means like audiobooks and T.V. as a much needed parenting break. It is okay.
We all need a little help to reset and enter back into parenting with a fresh new start.
Adjust your expectations
Once again, this goes back to the first point I made with regards slowing down. Many times, we feel stressed or down because we hold unrealistic expectations from ourselves and our children.
Social media is adding fuel to fire here. When we watch the lives of popular Influencers, we end up feeling a sense of lack in our own. Guilt takes hold and creates more burnout and stress.
Read up about what is expected from children at each age and focus on your child’s interests and needs rather than comparing with another child on the internet.
Take your child’s point of view
It helps to look at a situation from our child’s point of view. This will keep you in a state of empathy and help you feel better equipped to handle the situation.
Toddlers are learning to assert for themselves and many times feel lost and overwhelmed in an adult world. They don’t yet have the words to effectively voice their emotions.
When we keep these limitations in mind we are able to enter a tantrum like situation with more empathy and understanding over behavior policing.
Read here for posts that help you understand how to use gentle parenting strategies in discipline.
Look for root cause of problems
Sometimes even though we know the real cause of stress for our child, we tend to take the easy way out by distracting or appeasing.
Over time I have realized one thing, it only takes about 20 extra minutes to sit with my child and understand his side and problem solve together. Those extra 20 minutes save me from other future tantrums.
Give yourself grace
Gentle parenting is not about perfection. The more we guilt ourselves over our moments of weakness the more we lose time on more important things like trying to make amends and moving ahead.
Give yourself some grace when you feel you have mishandled a situation, make amends and promise yourself the next day will be better.
Take 5 minutes a day for self-care
Self-care doesn’t have to be about a 5-step beauty regime, most of us don’t find time to do all that. But, adding 5 minutes in the day to something you enjoy, be it a time spent doodling, putting on a face mask, or painting your nails makes all the difference.
Most importantly, add self-care on your calendar. It is easy to ignore your own needs as you live through the day. Put yourself on the list, that way it becomes a part of routine and you develop those self-care habits mechanically.
Here is how you can build a self-care routine as a busy mom.
Set the right limits
Parenting is ultimately a lot of self-work. Gentle parenting teaches us to set the right limits. It shows us how important it is to voice your needs in respectful ways and learn to say No when needed.
Many of us have been taught from childhood to go beyond our own needs in order to accommodate those around us. We learnt to suppress our feelings because talking about uncomfortable emotions or giving opposing views was considered disrespectful.
So as much as we want to do this work for ourselves, our children wil also learn through observation. This to me is the key to break free from generational traumas and release our children from carrying the same burdens as us.
When setting limits for children, I find the phrase, “I will not let you” to be most effective. It asserts a calm confident response to unwanted behaviors without shaming, labeling or punishing the child.
For e.g., “I will not let you hit me” as you gently pull the child away from you.
For more phrases to say when your child doesn’t listen read this post of mine.
Teach children emotional regulation techniques
Though teaching children emotional regulation takes a long time, once the child understands how to regulate for himself you are assured of better quality of parenting life.
We went through this process with our child, of naming his emotions, helping him with vocabulary for his emotions, providing alternative ways/words to express. It took us a long time, but, I see the positive impact emotion coaching has had on him.
If you are wondering when the terrible twos will end and how to deal with the terrible twos and toddler tantrums make sure to read these posts of mine to gain deeper insight into how gentle parenting works during moments of distress.
Gentle parenting is definitely not the easiest way to parent. There are no quick results or solutions, but try to hold on to the knowledge that you are doing the very best you can during testing moments.
Give yourself lots of grace, and take some time-out to get back in refreshed and recharged. Ultimately, our children expect happy parents not perfect parents.