Book review: The busy mom’s guide to ‘Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide’

I noticed myself getting angrier and more agitated after the honeymoon phase of having a new baby in the house ended this time around. Now, I had three kids ages four and under to care for—and a job and a mortgage and a marriage and all the other adult things I signed up for. It was (and is) a lot.

I noticed myself raising my voice more and losing my patience in record time. I was swimming in diapers and breastfeeding sessions and exhaustion and a soft and squishy postpartum stomach. I felt like I had no time or energy and some days it was almost like I was watching this busyness from the outside looking in.

What I realized were two things: I needed to ask for help, and I needed to connect with my toddler and preschooler. I needed a healthy dose of positive parenting advice from a very trusted source in my life: Rebecca Eanes.

I turned to Rebecca because her kind, calm yet effective and empowering suggestions and solutions have always spoken to me in the many articles she has written for Motherly. I knew her book had to be a solid extension of these thoughts and ideas, so I read Positive Parenting An Essential Guide: Ending the Power Struggles and Reconnecting from the Heart.

I got a lot out of this book. Not only did it help me pause and take a step back to look at this time in my life and how we are actually doing (pretty well for a really chaotic season in our lives) vs. how I perceive we’re doing (drowning in chaos)—it also gave me some inspiring tips to try with my children.

(I dogeared so many pages I don’t even know where to start!)

1. It had to start with me.

I realized I needed to combat the negative thought patterns I get sucked into on a daily basis—about myself, about my parenting skills, about the chaos in general. If I was not going to act nicely and I wasn’t able to muster up some level of patience, how could I expect my children to? If I wasn’t going to believe in myself, why should they?

So I had to change my thought patterns. It was time to practice positive thinking. As Rebecca says in her book, “Work on stopping your negative thought mid-thought every single time and thinking the corrective thought instead. The more you repeat the corrective thought, the more that neural pathway gets reinforced, and eventually the corrective thought will be your automatic thought.”

2. Then my relationship.

When you decide to have a child with someone, you’re not just merging two people together. You’re also merging two family histories including (likely) different perceptions of how to discipline and (likely) different parenting styles each person was brought up with. So, you have to figure out together what type of family you are raising—what morals and values are important to you? How do you want to handle the teaching of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’?

I love chapter six in Rebecca’s book. In Defining Your Family Culture you’ll walk through the seven pillars of family culture including more on habits, conflict resolution and traditions. I loved this chapter! And it encouraged my husband and I to actually sit down and draft our own family blueprint which I had never thought about before reading this book.

3. Then my children.

I had to look at things differently, at my children differently. I am a firm believe that babies do not enter this world with bad intentions. My toddler is not trying to frustrate me with her meltdowns, my preschooler is not trying to press my buttons with our power struggles—but they still can leave me feeling exasperated regardless.

Something clicked for me in chapter seven when I read, “We have a tendency to reduce children to nothing more than their behavior.” I feel like I was doing this—just seeing my children for how well they were following my directions or whether they were causing trouble or not. I wasn’t using my preferred number one strategy: Connecting my heart with theirs.

I had to stop feeling like my children’s motives were anything other than pure. As Rebecca continues in chapter seven, “Our children are more than their ability to sleep through the night. They are more than their willingness to instantly obey. They are more than a mood. They are more than the behavior they display at any given moment, more than what we see on the surface.”

4. Then, I had to look for solutions.

Rebecca’s book helped me see my children for more than just their behavior. It helped me understand that they’re not just “misbehaving” to misbehave, to get a rise out of me. They misbehave because something is wrong—they are signaling to me that they’re struggling with something and they need my help.

So I do my best (and I am a work in progress!) to stop and calm down. Then, I ask myself—like Rebecca suggests—“What is this behavior telling me?” Once I do that I can connect with them and we can look for a solution together. I believe that this approach, along with a large dose of empathy and understanding that we all make mistakes (parents and children), is the best solution for our family.

5. Now, I have to remind myself to calm down.

As parents, we’re tested every day by our environment. There are messes, piles, clutter, tantrums, rushing, mile-long to-do lists—you get my drift…

Parenthood is a lot to take on. So, I often need to dig deep and remind myself of the calm-down techniques I learned in chapter two, because as Rebecca says, “Meeting an out-of-control child when you’re an out-of-control parent results in a lot of chaos and hurt they only add to the problem.”

In this chaotic time in our lives, I’m not looking to make any problems bigger. So when that chaos arises—you can find me taking some space for deep breaths. Oh, and if you find me talking to myself, know that I'm most likely repeating the affirmations I learned in chapter two. (Hopefully, anyway. )

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