I’ve done a lot of reading on parenting. In part, because I like to read and, in part, because I don’t really feel like I know what I’m doing, so I look for better ways of doing things.
One of the things that is talked about in parenting classes and parenting books is your toolbox. As parents, we have all the different ways of coping that we’ve heard of and read about and seen. We have different levels of skill with all of our different parenting tools, but we get to choose which one to use in each situation.
We also get to choose what goes into our toolbox. If you, for instance, choose to use timeouts, you put that in your toolbox. If you choose not to use spanking, then you’re leaving it out of your toolbox. It’s a nice metaphor.
It also leaves out something crucial. When push comes to shove and we’re stressed, or overwhelmed, or just reacting, we stop reaching into our toolbox and go straight to our emergency kit. Our emergency kit is how we were raised.
For some people, that’s fine. For others? That’s terrifying.
When you come from a background that includes shaming, yelling, neglect, or abuse, it’s a terrifying prospect to find yourself in your emergency kit. It’s those times as a parent that I find myself regretting the way that I reacted and find myself having to apologize and repair with my daughter.
The things in my emergency kit aren’t the ones that I want to use with my daughter. That’s part of why I read so much and obsess so much about how I’m parenting. I have a lousy emergency kit. So, I need a well developed and well practiced tool set.
I’m learning. Compassion is a tool. Clear expectations are a tool. Understanding development is a tool. Consistency is a tool. Time out is a tool. Time in is a tool. Natural consequences are a tool. Using my words are tools. Helping her identify emotions are tools. Remembering to breathe is a tool. Remembering that uncertainty is normal is a tool. Playing together is a tool. Practicing everything is a tool.
There are tools that I choose not to use, also. Shaming. Spanking. Anger. Withholding affection. Yelling. Manipulating. Those are still tools. They are things that you can use to change the way your child behaves.
Many of that second list are the things that I find in my emergency kit. Especially yelling. There is a lot of yelling in my emergency kit. It’s part of why I pack my tool kit with quiet words. Please. Thank you. I hear you saying… I know it’s hard…
I think that the worse our emergency kit is the more important it is to have a huge tool kit and to be used to using all the tools in it. So, how about it? What’s in your toolbox? What’s in your emergency kit?