I was raised with traditional disciplinary methods of yelling, threatening, rewards, and physical punishment mixed with bouts of permissiveness. Before I had three children of my own, I made a vow never to replicate that. I was determined not to be that kind of mom.
I felt well prepared to be a parent. I had been a preschool teacher for several years, I wrote my master's thesis about Social Emotional Learning, and I created a Montessori-inspired home before the birth of my first child.
However, to my frustration, I still struggled to handle tantrums, sibling rivalry, lack of listening and power struggles in a calm and peaceful way.
As hard as I tried, it seemed that I just could not sustain peaceful parenting for long.
I would start out the day being very present and calm, but at some point, something would happen and I would lose my cool, give in, or check out. Then, I would go to bed feeling I was failing at this whole parenting gig.
After reading all the contradicting and confusing parenting information out there, I figured a few changes in my lifestyle and parenting approach would do the trick for me. So I've learned the Positive Discipline technique, minimized our clutter, created a slower rhythm for our days, baked homemade bread with the kids, told more stories, spent more time in nature, avoided screen time and sugar like the plague and practiced yoga.
I found that fighting the traps and pressures of our modern lifestyle and learning positive methods of discipline were super helpful for me. However, doing all that STILL didn't stop me from disconnecting, losing my cool, giving in, or simply checking out when I was not in the right state of mind.
I realized I struggled to make peaceful and respectful parenting stick because I was stuck in a vicious cycle I didn't know how to break.
I will never be a perfect mom. In fact, perfection was my enemy. It kept me from being authentic, vulnerable and real. The very things that foster connections in our relationships.
I inherited parenting fears, bad habits, negative beliefs, and reactive behavioral patterns from my past, especially from my own childhood. My emotional baggage impacted the way I interacted with my children, especially when I was tired, stressed, or triggered.
When this poor parent-child dynamic happened it created emotional distance and disconnection in my parenting.
In my experience, disconnection is the root cause of most everyday parenting challenges such as attention-seeking behavior, power struggles, aggression, not listening and more. And in turn, having to handle these common misbehaviors was exactly what contributed to me feeling tired, stressed, and triggered.
Then, of course, I would fall off the "peaceful mom" wagon again and again.
I desperately wanted to break this negative cycle. But the truth was NO parenting advice, tips, tools, tricks, or copious amounts of yoga truly helped until I upgraded my parenting mindset.
It was not until I figured out how to overcome emotional blocks, how to break poor parenting habits, clear emotional baggage, release parenting fears and negative beliefs, that I was then able to make peaceful parenting stick—finally.
Essentially, I had to rewire my parenting mindset. I had to overcome decades and even generations of conditioning. I did this through meditation, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), and the power of acceptance and forgiveness. I've learned to accept and forgive my past, myself, others and my children.
But really what this process helped me do was an emotional and energetic declutter. I was able to remove the blocks that stopped me from connecting and staying connected in my parenting.
Once those emotional blocks were removed it was easy to revert my negative parenting cycle. I was able to create a positive parenting cycle starting with connection. By connecting with my children I'm helping them feel a sense of belonging. Which in turn lessens my children's need to seek attention, power, revenge and their feelings of inadequacy. I've realized children can only DO better when they FEEL better.
And what a surprise! When my children behave better, I feel more rested, more relaxed, and I am able to interact, react and act in more positive ways. By removing many of my parenting blocks, I created space for emotional growth and better equilibrium that helps me sustain connection and harmony for longer stretches of time.
The sooner we realize parenting is a life-long practice, the better. I will never be a perfect mom. In fact, perfection was my enemy. It kept me from being authentic, vulnerable and real. The very things that foster connections in our relationships.
Of course, I still get overwhelmed, frustrated, and angry (once in a while!) but I've learned how to more easily recover from my parenting breakdowns and restore parent-child connection when it's lost.
I no longer go to bed feeling guilty—ever. I'm able to quickly forgive myself. I apply the time, energy, and mental focus I used to waste feeling guilty and worried, and instead, look within. I look for emotional blocks that I still need to uncover and release so I can be better tomorrow. I rest in the knowledge that the impact of this mindset shift has a powerful ripple effect that will last me through the years and even through generations to come.
A version of this post was published January 9, 2019. It has been updated.