If I could go back six years when I was pregnant for the first time with our twins, I wish someone would have told me this one transformative piece of advice that would change my parenting for the better, from the get-go.
It has helped me be a better parent and especially as we navigated two four-year-olds, but it sure would have been helpful when my husband and I embarked on this journey.
When I was pregnant, I read nearly every parenting book I could consume. I devoured them every chance I got… until all the advice started to conflict with each other and became overwhelming trying to sort through it all.
In all honesty, the mixed messages and differing advice of “professionals” made me felt ill-prepared for our impending arrivals. There were hundreds of different approaches to parenting and my head was spinning!
What was the best way to raise kids?
What was the best approach to calming a crying baby?
When and how is the best way to sleep train?
At 32 weeks, I collected every baby book, put them on the bookcase, and didn’t touch them again until the kids were older. I decided to trust my instincts and figure it out as we went.
I will forever be grateful to my sweet friend, who finally said what I needed to hear. “A baby cries because it needs something and you just figure out what it is. Trust your instincts. You will figure it out because you have to.”
And figure it out we did.
After nearly six years of navigating Motherhood through sleep deprivation, tantrums, illnesses, airplane rides turned nightmares, big emotions, sweet cuddles, night feedings, and times of completely being filled with joy and feelings of immeasurable gratitude, I now have my own piece of advice.
It’s not about sleep training or bottle feeding or how to create a routine. It’s not about just one thing – it relates to everything in parenting and motherhood. It has helped me be a better parent.
You can apply it to any situation. To any child. To any age. To any behavior. To your own behavior.
When I first became a Mom, I reacted to every cry, whimper, restless sound and request. I was there to solve problems, kiss skinned knees and mediate sibling spats.
And then I learned the trick.
THE ONE POWERFUL TIP TO PARENTING
This was the advice I needed years ago. Once I found my own way in motherhood, I discovered it.
I use it every day and has helped me react calmly. It allows me to give my kids the room they need to grow, and be more confident and self-sufficient. It’s helped me calm down when my frustration has bubbled up at the end of the day and has made me a better parent.
It’s about learning to Pause.
Pause before you react and respond. Pause to listen. Pause to think. Pause to watch and wait. Pause to let kids figure it out on their own. Pause to calm down. Pause to shake off frustration.
When you pause, you give your kids the chance to do something for themselves, instead of something for them.
WHAT THE “PAUSE” LOOKS LIKE IN ACTION
- When your baby cries – pause. Will waiting 30 seconds, a minute or five to give them the necessary time to calm down or direct their attention elsewhere?
- When siblings argue over who is playing with the coveted toy – pause. Maybe they’ll work it out on their own or is it nearing getting physical where you should step in? You’ll never know unless you pause.
- When your two-year-old trips and falls on the sidewalk– pause. Wait to see if she’ll pick herself up and brush it off as no big deal or if she needs comforting.
- When your child is first learning how to write their name and throws their pencil down in frustration – pause. Do they pick the pencil back up and keep trying or do you finish it for them or jump in to tell them it’s Ok to do it later without watching to see if they give it another shot?
- When your daughter is frustrated with her homework – pause. Will she think of a work-around to the problem on her own or does she need your help to find a solution?
- When your son wants attention, and is throwing a tantrum – please pause. Does he need a snuggle or is he acting out because he’s hungry, or thirty and will he use his words to ask for it?
- When your baby is stirring in bed and you’re watching on the monitor – pause and wait. Is she able to put herself back to sleep without your help or did you rush to comfort her and not allow her to learn how to do it on her own?
- When your kids are upset over what you made for dinner – pause. Will they take a bite and discover it’s not so bad or are have you already jumped up to make them another meal like a line-order cook?
- When you see your child reaching to get an object off the counter but it’s inches out of their grasp – pause. Will they find a solution such as getting a step stool or chair to assist him or do you reach over and give him the item before he can try?
- When you feel your patience slipping and the anger or annoyance is bubbling up inside – pause. Have you given yourself a few seconds, or stepped out of the room to get your emotions under control or did you just erupt before pausing? Would pausing have stopped you from yelling? I used to yell a lot when I was frustrated after a long day, which I hate to admit, but when I learned to pause, it helped me calm down and see the big picture before I said something I’d regret and didn’t mean.
WHY OUR KIDS NEED US TO PAUSE
It’s easy to get caught up on trying to make everything easier and better for our kids. Watching them struggle is hard, and that’s when we walk a slippery slope and may even turn into “fixers” for our children.
Sometimes out of habit and sometimes because it’s easier.
When we don’t pause, we take away the tough work and choices our children might make on their own.
I’m often reminded of this: The more we do for our children, the less they do for themselves. The less they think they need to do for themselves. The less they think they can do for themselves. The more we do for our kids, the less capable, confident, creative and adaptable they will become.
In situations where they could problem-solve, and probably walk away beaming that they found a solution all by themselves, instead, we find the solution for them.
When they may want to give up and stop trying because it’s too hard, do we make the choice to jump in and help before they give it another shot?
Oftentimes we don’t realize that our children – even babies – can do things, hard things, we don’t think they’re capable of. Or give them a chance to do.
When we don’t pause, and jump right in to rescue or help or fix, there is the potential that instead of building a child’s confidence, you are knocking it down, hurting their ability make decisions for themselves, develop communication skills, and be capable young people.
The next time you are able to wait – do it.
Pause and wait to see what happens. And then pause again and often.
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