Do you ever wish you were a calmer parent? A more connected parent?
I think we all have moments where we miss the bar we set for ourselves in these areas. Parenting challenges us in ways we’ve never been challenged before and with every new child, and every new stage, there are new challenges to navigate!
In this blog, I’m delighted to introduce you to Childhood Behaviour Advocate, Stephanie Wicker.
If you haven’t heard of Stephanie, let me tell you, that she is amazing. I have personally benefited from her expertise and guidance and am living her advice daily! Stephanie has guided families through early childhood for over 15 years in her private consultancy, as a preschool teacher and special needs therapist. She also fosters high needs children.
I asked Stephanie to share her best tips for becoming a more connected and calmer parent. I hope you find her perspective as insightful and helpful as I do!
In your experience with parents, what have you found have been the most common reasons parents find it hard to stay calm?
Being a calm, conscious parent is relatively easy when life is smooth. It’s not until there’s dirty dishes in the sink, children fighting over a toy, and hubby is napping upstairs that everything “calm” gets chucked out the window and Atilla the Hun (aka not-so-calm Mum) returns.
The truth is that parenting is tough. It’s especially hard when we are feeling stress.
Kiddos disobeying, arguing… or refusing to get dressed for school are translated as stressful events by your brain. As soon as your brain defines an experience as stressful, regulating becomes a lot harder because it’s busy fighting off all those stress hormones.
Your brain is like a body all by itself with different organs with different jobs. Together, they keep you healthy and whole. When stress kicks in the “organs” (different departments) of the brain have a tough time communicating with one another and everything gets jumbled up in the chaos. How you stress is how you parent. If you struggle to regulate through stressful situations, then parenting might feel overwhelming from time to time.
P.S. It just means that you are normal.
How does how calm we are affect our connection with our children?
For some parents, spending time with their children is often stressful. Kiddos struggle to cooperate, compromise and all the things that make relationships and togetherness run smoothly. But here’s the thing, your child’s most difficult behaviour is natural and even necessary in their development. Nine times out of ten, when I speak to parents it’s their expectations for their child’s behaviour that is the problem. (Ouch! I know.)
Children’s brains are not designed to sit still, share their toys and cooperate with others. But, so often, that is exactly what we expect of them. These unrealistic standards that we place on young children is what leads to a lot of the stress that we experience. Inevitably, that stress leads to disconnection, “That’s it! I won’t look at you until you apologise!”
Stressful parenting is normal. No one can be conscious all the time. We are going to make unconscious decisions and experience doses of parenting stress daily. Once we adjust our expectations based on their development and needs our brain can process the events with clarity and staying truly connected becomes a lot easier.
What are your top tips for staying calm and connected when dealing with challenging behaviours?
I have found that the key to staying truly connected with your children begins and ends with putting yourself in their shoes and treating them how you would want to be treated. It sounds so simple, right? It’s all the stress we experience that gets in the way.
So, the real question is, how do we navigate parenting stress? Stress is a natural, necessary emotion. Our aim is not to get rid of the stress but to simply stress better.
A few quick ways you can stress better in parenting is defining your own triggers and practising self-awareness when you’re with your children. Before you react, ask yourself, “What am I feeling? What’s behind this feeling? Is this thought helpful?” I teach this process through the three C’s of Cognitive Therapy which are Catch, Check and Commit. This is a powerful tool for adjusting our emotional responses and practising mindful parenting.
The next way to stress better is having realistic expectations for your child’s behaviour. We do this by exploring your little one’s behaviour development and understanding why children do what they do! This allows your brain to accept the challenges as they arise and process them calmly and mindfully (no longer seen as a stressful event).
Finally, we all need a GPS to get where we want to go. Stressing better, or, calmer parenting, comes with a roadmap. We were never meant to do this alone and we grow faster when we grow together. Learn how to ask for help and accept the guidance of those you respect and trust.
What do you wish all parents knew about their children, and managing their behaviour?
I love this question. I wish all parents knew that they are doing an amazing job! This stuff is hard. We all struggle with stress in our parenting and interpersonal relationships. Having a hard time and asking for help is choosing courage over comfort.
During challenging behaviour, both, parent and child, experience big doses of stress leading to inevitable power struggles. When we are uncomfortable the natural response is to want to take over. “I’m the parent!”
Ironically, the child is experiencing the same stress response in their limbic system and digging in their heels too.
No one wins a power struggle.
The good news is that it doesn’t need to be this hard. Once we make the small adjustments mentioned above everything in the relationship begins to shift. Parents feel more confident, children feel more connected and everyone processes their stress better.
What sort of changes do you see in the lives of families who work with you?
I’m not sure I can answer this question without getting emotional. I have been working with families for over fifteen years and following our initial session there is always tears. Being able to provide hope to these parents who fear that they are failing, or something is wrong with their child is genuinely priceless. I think it is the peace of mind that comes with learning that your family is completely normal and there are small, achievable steps you can take to make immediate shifts in the relationship.
The parents I support have read all the parenting books, attended the seminars and are truly committed to positive, gentle discipline. They simply struggle putting it into action when the behaviour challenges arise. This is where I come in! I show them how easy it can be to help their children navigate their stress and make amazing decisions around their behaviour without the coaxing, begging or yelling that often leads to self-shame.
Parents experience what it’s like to enjoy their family time again and have the confidence to do things they otherwise thought impossible.
Join Stephanie for a live Q&A
If you would like more support with becoming a more connected and calmer parent, or you have a question regarding a parenting challenge you’re facing right now, come and join us for a live Q&A with Stephanie. This will be held in my Facebook group for mums, There’s More to Mum. You can submit your questions beforehand and you will have access to the replay as a group member.
Update: This live Q&A session has already passed! It was an incredibly insightful and empowering session. But don’t worry, you can still access the replay within my Facebook group! It’s not too late to learn some amazing strategies to deal with common parenting challenges. Click on the image below to join…
About Stephanie Wicker
As an advocate for children’s behaviour, Stephanie’s mission is to assist parents to see beyond their child’s most difficult moments and instead respond to them based on their emotional needs. Over 15 years of working with children, combined with her personal experience with mental health, has forged her desire to help parents become calmer, more conscious carers.