Hi, everyone! Oh man, we have a very special episode of Voices of Your Village today that I am so jazzed about. I sat down with my friend Wendy Bertagnole, of the Exceptional Parenting Podcast, to dive into this idea we have of respectful parenting. While she and I were having this conversation we realized that as the respectful parenting community has grown (#RespectfulParenting) there’s this idea that it has to be perfect, that if you yell or say the wrong word you will somehow screw up parenting. I think we have to find a middle ground here, we’ve swung this pendulum from how a lot of us were raised (potentially without emotional development support) and now we’re on the other side of talking about every feeling all the time and making sure kiddos are always in control of their bodies, and that it all has to be perfect. This is leading to an uptick in anxiety in parents and children.
So often in this work we get parents who come to us from the respectful parenting community, which I dig because the idea of “respectfully parenting” makes so much sense. I want to treat these tiny humans as humans and everything I was coming across from this community said that it had to be perfect parenting. Which is not real life, or how science works. When we’re looking at sensory regulation here we are talking about mirror neurons. This idea that it is not a child’s job to get calm for you, it’s your job to get calm for them- but dang it’s hard!
Then Wendy and I talked through the reality of when your kid is throwing a tantrum in public and you parent them respectfully while being present and intentional with your reactions. I explained that in situations like these it is best to respond with intention, as opposed to reacting. This all starts with self-awareness, you can’t regulate your response unless you start with the mindset of, “right now I feel overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, and judged.” We talk so much about regulation when really we should be talking about awareness and bringing conscious effort to this acknowledgment.
There is so much that goes into reacting vs responding: our biases, how we were raised, social programming, and cultural context. I am not here to change any of that. However, what we do need to look at is the privilege that comes with participating in something like a “no yell challenge.” Maybe that means that you have access to support that gives you time to step away from your kids so you have an incredibly even temperament when you do see them or maybe you’re a single parent who works your butt off to provide for your kids and you’re listening to parenting podcasts in your free time to expand your parenting toolbox because you’re a phenomenal parent, but you also yelled at your kids twelve times today. That doesn’t mean that you’re not a phenomenal parent.
There aren’t a certain amount of hours you’re supposed to spend with your kids, there aren’t certain hours you are supposed to spend with your kids. None of that is real. The quality of the time that you spend with them is far more important. You could spend all day with your kids and be miserable because you didn’t meet your own needs. I would rather you spend two hours a day with your kids but with your needs met, so that when you were with them you could be present and enjoy it.
When I am looking at other parents my whole goal is to think, “What could I pull from them? Where is an area where they are shining that I could improve?” Sometimes it’s a hard no. For example, I don’t think I am designed to home school but I look at my sister-in-law who is a phenomenal parent and home school teacher and I think, “Am I supposed to want that?” Then every time a kid asks me a question and my response is, “I don’t know, science?” I remember that I should not be a home school teacher. Because I don’t think that brings me joy, for other humans it does fill their cup.
I want this to be okay, and not a slight to the people whose cup it does fill. It shouldn’t be a comparison game. Also, this is a women’s problem. I have never met a dude who said, “Oh my gosh, you didn’t breastfeed?” Where there is judgment about your parenting choice, it is only women who do this to other women. Ladies, we can do better.
Holy cow, that episode was so much fun. It is so full of goodness and conversation that we need to be having on this journey. If you want to dive in deeper to a couple of things head on over to Wendy’s podcast, the Exceptional Parenting Podcast, and check out Episode 22 “When parenting is more of a struggle than a joy” or Episode 34 “Two personal stories I’m scared to share with you,” because you know I am here for that vulnerability. Wendy said these topics are helpful tools to dive deeper into the topics we covered today. Alright babes, as per usual. We are in this together, and we will keep striving for progress and intention over perfection.