What aspect of parenting do you research endlessly? Fight to nurture in your children tirelessly?
Think back on the last week. What were the most rewarding moments with your child? What did they say or do that made you feel most proud?
Maybe your child conquered a fear, made a good choice, or demonstrated kindness. Identifying the heart of that situation is the connection to uncovering what I call your “parenting platform.”
The Parenting Platform
Your platform serves as the foundation upon which you build most of your day-to-day effort with your children. It’s your strongest “mom muscle.” Born of passion, it’s the facet of parenting that most naturally grabs your attention and sets your heart on fire. Motivated by legacy, you know and believe its manifestation will leave the world a better place. Different from the active choice we make in subscribing to a particular mainstream parenting style or philosophy, picking your platform is an act of the unconscious. It is a profoundly personal decision.
Do we choose our platform, or does it choose us?
I believe our children, in part, come to us as mirrors continually showing us our own need, the lessons we never fully received. They show us the areas where we have some work to do, making us fit as both the best student and teacher for the job.
Your platform could be instilling the pay-off for hard work, caring for the environment, serving others, or living a life of faith.
For me, it’s nurturing her emotional intelligence—more than anything, I want to teach my daughter how to be smart about her feelings.
The Road to Emotional Intelligence
I always considered myself reasonably emotionally intelligent. I talk about my feelings, journal often to stay self-aware, and protect time daily to take good care of myself. However, the tantrums of toddlerhood, wildly and critically, surfaced some of my “unfinished business.”
During tantrums, when my daughter most needed my help, I was yelling. Loudly. And often. I really, really didn’t like that. Yelling felt awful every single time, but I couldn’t stop.
These past two years, I’ve fought to learn how to regulate my emotions, cope with stress in healthy ways, and demonstrate resiliency. Yelling was the first clue that I needed some help. The experience of accepting help uncovered my parenting platform.
My daughter is almost four now. Recently I noticed she is using her words to tell me how she feels instead of melting down. I saw her “taking a break” before exploding in anger and asking for what she needs. Watching her navigate her feelings has given me a deep sense of total reward.
For a while, things were going along so swimmingly I almost forgot about tantrums.
But, they returned. Not because I’ve failed, but because they are still developmentally appropriate. However, my tricks for helping her manage the “big feelings” at the age of two no longer work at three. When she’s feeling really angry, she doesn’t want me to hold her or talk to her or distract her with a toy.
Learning to help her cope was different this time. Instead of doing the rescuing for her, I thought about the tools I use to manage stress and considered how I might modify them for her use. How could I bolster her emotional intelligence?
The “Feel Better Bag”
First, I showed her my transportable collection of soothing sensory items, or what I call my “Grounding Kit.” Unzipping the little black mesh bag, I explained how spending some time with a few of my favorite things, one for each of the five senses, helps me feel better when I’m having a hard time. My kit included an essential oil, a couple of bags of tea, the gemstone that fits just right in the palm of my hand, a tube of lipstick that makes a nice “clicking” noise upon opening and closing it, and a few other pretty things with my name on them.
Off she went excitedly gathering her favorites to own the process of creating what she calls her “Feel Better Bag.” A small, tasty lollipop that smells like peach, a picture of us, a noisy toy to fiddle with, and two gemstones to hold. We found a special spot for it in the house, then made another one for the car. During a calm moment, we acted out the scenario of a tantrum and her using the bag until she felt better.
These past few days, the “Feel Better Bag” has saved her on more than one occasion. Of course, she still has tantrums, and, in a sense, she still needs them. My role in helping her cope is shifting. Modeling is still as important as ever, but now I can share the tools I’ve learned, monitor her use of them, and stand back to see what’s possible.
Emotional intelligence is my parenting platform—the very heart of my mothering, my north star, and my guiding principle.
What is your platform? What “road” led you to uncover it?