First, I've got to say that with the new look and feel of the blog, it's a place I actually enjoy coming to. It kinda lifts me up. Whoa. I hope you feel the same way! Anyway, moving on to more important things...
Instead of moving away from the negative, I'm focusing on moving toward the positive. But what exactly does that look like? Because we can talk philosophy and theory all day (trust me, it's my specialty), but if it's not showing itself in application, it's completely useless.
I have to admit, I hadn't realized how few positive alternatives I had really identified for myself until I started really consciously looking at them. No wonder it's been so hard to kick old habits!
It's the reason so many parents resort to coercive, authoritarian, even abusive discipline: If I don't yell, spank, shame, threaten, reward...what do I do?
When you can't answer that question you're forced to choose between domination and subservience. You can be the authoritarian parent focused on harnessing control or the permissive parent who relinquishes all control, nothing in between.
But that's all a lie.
There's another option that doesn't require me or my child to feel controlled or powerless, one that protects my sense of self, my power and his, and allows us both to feel respected and satisfied.
I hate to oversimplify it, because again, in practice it's anything but simple. But it really all comes down to this: Love.
That's it. Love.
You're thinking, Yeah, well, we all love our children. And you're right. But we don't always love them well.
Too many times I've had to remind Jackson that my love for him abides even through my anger, impatience, rudeness and lack of presence. And I'm also quick to assure him that it abides through his tough times too.
But what if I didn't have to remind him. What if I showed him? Every time. No matter how I feel. No matter how he acts. What if I loved him well every time?
When he feels loved above all else, I see cooperation ooze out of him like he can't contain it. When he's loved well, he's more excited about compromises than about getting what only he wants. When we're connected, his greatest joy is my greatest joy and vice verse.
When he is loved well, he loves well.
So that has been my mission. To love him well. And in practice for me, that means hugging it out.
When I'm so busy he starts to feel like an inconvenience, I hug it out. When I feel like manipulating and coercing to get him to fall in line, I hug it out. Every time I want to scream and yell, I hug it out.
At first it felt really strange, almost inauthentic. But once I gave myself over to it - deciding with my whole heart that what I want is to love, not control - I found that it literally melted all those feelings away along with the anger and impatience.
And he melted into me.
It's so simple and so beautiful. And slowly we're rediscovering the connection we've been missing lately and working our way toward the relationship both of us want to have.
We're still far from the goal and I'm, as always, far from perfection. But we're moving forward.