Tuesday, February 15, 2011

unconditional parenting | 4. put the relationship first

and alfie kohn does it again:

"... but before we resort to controlling interventions, before we make a child unhappy, and certainly before we do anything that could be construed as placing conditions on our love, we should make absolutely sure it's worth the possible strain on the relationship."

this one's a creeper – for me anyways – as in, it seems simple enough but then when i think about it a little more, it starts sinking in a little deeper. creepin' in a little further.
and i know as bonzo gets a bit older, the meaning of those words will morph and grow.

but today, bonzo is 19 months old so it means this to me:
what could be more important than bonzo's relationship with me – and mine with him?
nothing, that's what.

a 19 month old can push a button or two. oh how they can push a button or two.
and bonzo has seen me frustrated and not at my most patient, which is fine by me because i think it's important that he sees that the full spectrum of feelings and emotions – happy, sad, mad – are a part of life and are all okay. i don't want him to see me mask how i feel so he's seeing cheerful but sensing tension – i want him to see a positive example of me feeling the feelings.
i really want him to know that when i'm not at my finest that it's not his fault.
and i want to continue to recognize my feelings and take a deep breath before proceeding or reacting. because it is in that breath that i put our relationship first.

i don't want to react to a situation in a way that would make him feel like i'm capable of becoming feared or untrustworthy.
so when i'm being pushed to the brink (hello, the last 36 hours) and i want to shout "AREYOUFUCKINGSERIOUS?!" from the hilltops, i remember a couple things:
1. bonzo's needs are immediate and they're urgent – to him. they just are. period. the end.
the sooner i can remember that he doesn't mean to be rude+demanding+irritating+exasperating the better we'll both be! he's just sayin' what's on his mind, man. the filter will come later. right?
2. he's learning how to handle life by watching how i handle life. if that's not enough to check myself i don't know what is. and i don't have any hope or expectation that i will be a perfect model, either and i think that's a big, huge, important piece of the puzzle: everyone stumbles along the way. mommy does, daddy does and bonzo will be better off for seeing that modeled for him, too. it's all a part of the process: showing him that we can loose our way but find our way back.
3. what's got me at my max one day will not have me there forever – and the trust, love and respect we have for each other will always eclipse the maxed-out moments... especially if i continue to put our relationship first.

and like i said, as time marches on, the notion of "conditions" and "strain" on our relationship will change shape a bit. but either way, staying true to what our relationship has been, is now, and what i want it to become always seems to right the ship – and i figure the more practice i get at it now the better. that way, i'm more and more equipped to handle what comes my way when things really get fun.


Mama Mo said...

It does seem simple, doesn't it? But it's not. I find myself wondering when this will really come into play for me and my guys... they're 12 months old, and they're relatively easy, for now. But it won't always be this way.

I think I'll send hubby to read this post when the times comes.

Thanks :-)

Amy said...

hi. I just came over from Code Name: Mama's link to this post on facebook. I really like your series on Kohn's book; I have just read the book myself. My son is only 3 months old, so maybe I would have figured some of this out eventually anyway, but his book (and a few random other things I have read) have really made me think to look at things from a child's perspective, and it just changes the game so much!
"bonzo's needs are immediate and they're urgent – to him" and what you said in post 3 about tantrums really bring that home to me.
Anyway, like you said, there is so much to digest in this book (almost all of it is new to me and so eye-opening!), can't wait to read the rest of your series!

Multiple Musings said...

Hi, I also came over from Code Name: Mama's fb link. I've been a fan of Kohn for a long time. I'm a teacher so I read a lot of his education books and articles. I just wrote a post about praise on my blog which incorporates Kohn's views on the matter.

Unconditional parenting is not simple. My twin girls are now four and I sometimes slip into the "If you do not do this then...." (consequence) and "I you do this then..." (bribe). It's really hard to always have the discussion when you don't like their behaviour. I guess it's a journey though and I hope they don't feel like my love is conditional because of my mistakes.

Erin @ Multiple Musings on Urbanmoms.ca

life-is-learning said...

Hi, I also saw the line on Code Name Mama's FB ... I love Alfie Kohn and look forward to reading your take on the other UP Principles :)

jessica zavala said...

As always I'm inspired by your research to do some of my own. You're such a good mama-resource. Thanks for opening my eyes to new things. Kohn's now on the reading agenda. ps. Bonz is looking like a big boy. :)

carolina postcard said...

Wow, I'm liking this a lot. Such a gentle reminder to take a step back, breath and then react. Bonzo's a lucky little guy.