I haven’t shared much here in the past on the specific challenges of parenting that I’m facing during any given time — I think I’ve always wanted this space to be a refreshing respite for both parents and non-parents alike to get ideas for living well, and I’ve tried to veer far from “mommy blog” territory. But lately I’ve had so many readers and friends (even the ones who don’t have kids) mention that they’d love more conversation about navigating parenthood, and since it’s such a central part of my own journey, it suddenly feels like a conversation I want to be having. So, here goes…

On a recent Sunday night, after what felt like a very long weekend of meltdowns and battles over candy and bedtimes, I collapsed into bed and scrolled wearily through my phone looking for something that might help our family achieve a little more peace and a little less conflict. In my desperate search, I stumbled across a book called No-Drama Discipline and impulsively tapped “download.” Even though the title itself sounded about as realistic as Phoebe’s stuffed unicorn suddenly coming to life. Reading the first chapter, I was caught off guard to feel a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes. Here’s what it said:

“You are not alone. If you feel at a loss when it comes to getting your kids to argue less or speak more respectfully… if you can’t figure out how to keep your toddler from climbing up to the top bunk, or get him to put on clothes before answering the front door… if you feel frustrated having to utter the same phrase over and over again (“Hurry! You’re going to be late for school!”) or to engage in another battle over bedtime or homework or screen time… if you’ve experienced any of these frustrations, you are not alone.

In fact, you’re not even unusual. You know what you are? A parent. A human being, and a parent.”

As the floodgates opened, I realized that a huge weight of guilt had lifted off my shoulders that I didn’t even know I’d been carrying around. Guilt that I sometimes yell at my kids (but only when they really deserve it, lol), guilt that they won’t eat spinach much less sushi like some of my friends kids do, guilt that they probably definitely get a little more screen time than they should. Reading those words reminded me that parenting is hard, and that none of us do it perfectly. But if we stay curious, learning from our mistakes and trying to get better — we’re on the right track. And if, despite our missteps, we’re seeking to create a home where our kids feel safe and connected and see kindness in action, then we’re doing a pretty great job.

In the weeks since, I’ve made it through the rest of the book with fewer tears and more “aha” moments, and I’m starting to view the act of discipline as an opportunity to, as the authors say,  “create connections in your children’s brains that build emotional and social skills that will serve them now and throughout their entire life — all while strengthening your relationship with them.”

Those realizations are for another post (do y’all want more of these parenting “aha’s?”) but that first tearful night made me understand something really important:

In order for us to make progress, in parenting and in life, we’ve got to let go of the guilt. It blinds us and burdens us and distracts us from the real steps we can make towards growth.

But when we accept our flaws and realize that mistakes are a natural part of being human, it’s like a mental fog lifts and we’re free to be more intentional about where we’re headed.

Since my inner monologue has a major impact on how I respond to my kids, shouldn’t I extend the same acceptance and love to myself that I want my kids to receive? In No Drama Discipline, the authors share that sometimes, instead of a “time out,” even more impactful can be a “time in,” where we sit and talk with our child to help them calm down and maintain a loving connection even in times of conflict. I love this idea because it puts grace at the forefront and shows our kids that we’re there for them whether they’re on their “best behavior” or not. As we do the inner work on ourselves to get better — and help draw clear boundary lines for our kids — we’re showing them by example that, even in the hard moments, forgiveness is waiting and love is in abundance.

9 comments
  1. 1
    Ginger | July 8, 2019 at 9:44 am

    Thanks for sharing, and I’d love to read more about your parenting journey and “aha” moments. We all take away different nuggets from the parenting books we read, so to have them easily digested and shared within the context of another family is so helpful and life-giving. Keep ’em coming!

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | July 8, 2019 at 1:35 pm

      That’s so great to hear, Ginger. And couldn’t agree more — in fact, I can read a parenting book and get one thing out of it, then pick it up again when my kids are at a different stage and glean a whole different lesson. We can learn so much from each other!

      Reply
  2. 2
    Franziska | July 8, 2019 at 10:31 am

    For me as a working mom of two – having these topics too from time to time, makes it more relatable and authentic as surely parenting is a big part of your everdaylife.

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | July 8, 2019 at 1:36 pm

      You got that right — especially at this current stage where my kids are 4 and 6, it’s probably the biggest part! Excited to see where this conversation takes us. 🙂

      Reply
  3. 3
    Kirsten | July 8, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    I agree with the other comments- thank you for sharing this, and would love to see more content of this nature!

    Reply
  4. 4
    miss agnes | July 9, 2019 at 8:17 am

    I strongly recommend an older book by John Grey – Children are from heaven.
    It gives pretty simple yet powerful techniques to teach children how to manage their emotions, while avoiding conflict. It seems pretty harsh at first – basically you isolate the child in a room and let them scream their heart out, by chunks of 1 mn per age (so 10 years old, 10 mn isolation) – but it is fantastic. No negotiations, no arguing.
    It teaches them that it’s OK for them to feel angry, and they can express their anger, but that you’re not willing to endure their tantrum. Since children crave parents’ attention, depriving them of your attention for a short period of time defuses the situation. Then they come back, say sorry, and you can reassure them that you still love them, and will always love them, even when everyone is angry.
    I am still applying this now that they’re teenagers : when my 17 year old girl is being disrespectful, I only have to say, ‘you don’t talk to me that way’ and leave. She sulks for a while and then comes to me to say sorry and give me a hug.
    Raising well-behaved, balanced children takes some efforts and consistency, but it is so worth it.

    Reply
    • Julia | July 9, 2019 at 4:06 pm

      Hey Agnes!

      Interesting ideas, although I have to say that I am fairly concerned at the idea of putting your child in a room alone to scream. I am not above the idea of teaching self-soothing for things like sleep with babies, but I feel like it is one of our main objectives as parents to get down on our kids’ levels and help them talk through their feelings and anger. Another issue here that I’m hesitant about is the seemingly necessary apology. I think we live in a society where women and girls are encouraged to apologize for their anger, and unless your child is actually being mean or hurting, my goal with my daughter is to teach her that anger is as valid an emotion as love and is nothing to apologize for.

      Reply
  5. 5
    Courtney | July 23, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing! I loved this book. I also loved “Simplicity Parenting” and “Peaceful Parent Happy Kids” if you want similar reads that will have you feeling like you’re doing a great job at a really, really hard job…but here’s a few little tips to make things a little bit easier on everyone.
    I would love more mama posts!

    Reply
  6. 6
    Linda | July 23, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    Great post, would love to see more on this topic!

    Reply
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