Have you ever watched your 6 year old voluntarily gather up his little brother or sister after they have hurt themselves and compassionately comfort and tend to them? It’s moments like this when you think “Awe, that is so cute. I guess I’m doing something right as a parent”? However, it seems ironic when just moments later you witnessed that same child demand the toy his brother has and then start to beat it away from him. Then you think, “What in the world have I done wrong?”
Sometimes it happens several times a day. One minute they’re helpful, kind and considerate and the next you wonder where the Tasmanian Devil came from. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. It’s all part of the parenting roller coaster.
The first rollercoaster I ever rode was “Superman the ride.” I waited for 20 minutes and just about wet my pants in anticipation. When I finally boarded the coaster, I checked the harnesses over and over again. I can remember the slow climb to the top of the first and highest peak of the ride. At the top I could see the entire park and beyond for miles around. It was beautiful. The first plunge was both exhilarating and terrifying. There were corkscrews and multiple peaks and valleys. Honestly, some of it I didn’t like very much. Other parts of the ride I absolutely loved. Ultimately, when it was all said and done, I wanted to go again. I knew that the ride was securely connected to the track beneath us and I was confident in where we would end up. Despite the fear and uncertainly produced by the moment by moment changes in the coaster, the track was smooth, solid and sure. I knew others had safely charted the same course before. My overall experience was amazing!
Everyone has ups and downs in all areas of life… including parenting
Recently after putting the kids to bed, my wife and I discussed the rollercoaster that we sometimes felt we were riding. I told her about some of my feelings regarding the growth of TRU Parenting. “Sometimes, I feel like it’s really making a difference and I’m succeeding in the mission of the site,” I said. Then I continued, “Other times I feel like nothing is happening. Is it really making a difference? There are even times when I feel both of these feelings simultaneously.” My wife looked at me, smiled and said, “It sounds like how I feel parenting and homeschooling the kids each day.” She then rehearsed a scenario from earlier that morning. My three boys and Camille had an especially insightful and lively discussion about treating others with kindness in their morning devotional for school. The boys participated and shared perceptive insights and connections. My wife thought, “Wow, they are really learning and I’m doing something worthwhile here.” Moments later a fight broke out and she caught the boys throwing shoes at each other. Her self-talk was not quite as positive regarding the shoe throwing. She continued by explaining that soon after they were getting ready to leave the house and she asked for assistance from our oldest son. My eight year old son Cuylar, cooperatively ran around the house getting all of his siblings ready to go. He even changed a diaper, dressed a sibling, found shoes for everyone, and put them on his two youngest siblings. My wife was pleasantly shocked. We looked at each other for a moment and realized how common this emotional rollercoaster is in our heads and in our lives. I had felt this tug-of-war in regards to our kids, my day to day job, in friendships and other relationships as well.
TRU principles keep us on track and help us measure TRU success
Just like my roller coaster ride, there are moments of parenting that scare us and test our security even when we have a strong foundation and know that the track is smooth and sure. My wife and I found that we often measure our parenting success on our children’s momentary actions, results or outcomes, but fail to accept these moments of fear or uncertainty as part of the parenting roller coaster ride. When faced with behavioral and emotional ups and downs it’s easy to focus our energy on how we failed and stress about the needed change that needs to happen right then. Instead it’s important to focus on the overall structure of the track we are riding on. After ups comes downs, and after downs come ups, but ultimately the ride is worth it, we stay connected to the track and can still reach our determined destination. We do this by focusing on the TRU principles and patterns that comprise the track that we are traveling on. Our consistent maintenance of that track is much more important than worrying about the dips, twists, turns and spins that our kids throw into the ride.
At any given moment in our parenting roller coaster ride we can ask ourselves these 3 questions.
1. TEACHING: Are my actions Teaching my kids what I want and intend for them to learn?
2. RELATIONSHIP: Are my actions building my Relationship with my child and family?
3. UPGRADE YOURSELF: Are my actions Upgrading myself and getting me closer to my goals and who I really want to be?
Whether we are in the middle of a dip, terrifying spiral or at one of the tranquil peaks, these three simple questions can help us make sure we stay on track. Not only do the three pillars of TRU Parenting provide a strong foundational track to work from, but they also give us a fixed, positive and helpful tool with which to measure our success as a TRU parent. The sign of a great parent is not the child’s behavior. The sign of a truly great parent is the parent’s behavior. My wife and I have made these three questions part of a regular internal script we follow to guide our disciplinary actions, our playful interactions and even our moments when we think our kids are not watching. This has allowed us to build cycles of healthy living that are a much more powerful and profound measure of success than any one specific positive or negative act.
We get to build our own track
Sometimes we can let the fears of the ups, downs and the extreme emotions derail us or cause us to jump ship in a frenzied attempt to try to make everything straight, right and predictable again. The great thing to remember is that you get to build the track. Your child may bend and throw some woop-ti-dos in from time to time, but the structure is of our own making. We can build in daily patterns and habits to strengthen the TRU principles of Teaching, Relationship and Upgrading ourselves. When we stay on track, the trajectory of parenting success is more sure and we can start to enjoy the parenting roller coaster ride with all of its ups, downs, flips and spirals. Stay TRU and trust that you and your child will end up right where you want to be.
What areas of your life do you feel these roller coaster feelings and thoughts? What do you do to help stay on track through it all?