When I was a child, my family was incredibly uncomfortable with emotions. “Suck it up”, “think of something else”, “stop crying”. If I felt anything other than grateful and happy, it’s because I chose to feel those emotions and I should choose better next time. “Choose happy” and “you control what you think about”. I learned to put feelings in a box, hidden away where no one could find them. These views are pretty standard in our society.
When I became a mother, my firstborn had no problem feeling the whole spectrum of emotions. I felt helpless when she was upset. When I feel helpless, I feel out of control, and I have an obsessive need to be in control. Her emotions made me uncomfortable and angry.
I labeled her as “spirited” and “difficult”. I demanded respect and obedience and was uncomfortable with her emotions. Her tantrums sent me into a huge mess of rage and I tried everything to get her to end her outbursts. Yelling, ignoring, threats, bribes, shame, blame, hugs, space, time out, etc.
She was a problem for me to solve. If only I could find the right combination of sleep, food, free play, structured play, etc- then surely I would be able to end her suffering and mine.
The more I read about emotions, the more I realized that the problem was me. She was a normal human with feelings. I was trying to change what it meant to be human for her, so that I could be more comfortable.
When we started the journey to peaceful parenting, things actually got worse. The more I tried to respond with love and patience, the more I felt like screaming. I felt like I was trying to be better and oh my goodness why don’t they care that I’m trying so hard? I still approached peaceful parenting as a way to solve the “problem” of “spirited children”.
After about a year of pushing through and changing my own automatic responses to my children, I noticed that our home was really changing. We started this transition about two years ago and seriously the first year was so incredibly hard. I realized that most of the “issues” my daughters struggled with, were really personal problems I had to work through.
Only when I began to openly accept the rainbow of feelings in my own life, was our relationship able to change. I saw her as a person, not a problem, not “spirited”, not something to control.
I still really struggle with emotions. I prefer to stuff them in a box. Unfortunately, that’s both unhealthy and ineffective. All the feelings come out eventually.
Finding out what your body needs in regards to sleep, nutrition and play can be really helpful. That being said, I no longer think they can cure you of your humanity.