Parenting is often tricky to navigate and sometimes we find ourselves caught up in uncomfortable situations.
“Mom! I’m stuck!” were the words yelled at me by my 5-year-old. He had decided to climb through the barbed wire fence on our evening walk, despite us saying no. I immediately lost it and started shouting. Not only had he not listened, but he had also ripped his pants.
Yes, I’m aware I’m not winning any awards for my display of parenting prowess, and I apologized to him. It did get me thinking though, about why I overreacted to the situation. As parents, we have a lot on the go and often our emotional tanks are low. On top of that, we have our own baggage and our kids behaviour can trigger an emotional reaction in us. This might be one of the most difficult parts of parenting. Because you are not just parenting your kids, you are parenting yourself.
Boundaries help our children feel safe and loved.
Like a barbed wire fence demarcates an area, parenting requires us to put boundaries in place. This is not only healthy for our children but us as well. Relationships with respectful boundaries provide the framework for healthy interactions that meet your child’s needs and your own.
They also help your child feel safe and confident in a world that can feel overwhelming. That doesn’t mean that putting them in place isn’t hard work though!
The job of putting up a fence is always made easier with help, and boundary setting is the same. You could do it as a family. This would allow your kids to feel included in the decisions that will affect them. It is also helpful to find common ground that meets everyone’s needs.
Parenting is hard!
When your child pushes against boundaries (or in my case, hurdles over them and heads for the hills) it can be triggering. It makes us feel uncomfortable, inadequate, and like we need a mid-morning cry in the bathroom. The more we fight with our kids, the more stuck we seem to get.
It is so frustrating, I know!
But if we can take a breath, pause for a moment, look at the boundary we have set, we can decide if it is worth all the heartache. If it is important to you, then hold firm and be present while your child rides the waves of the big emotions it provokes. If it is an arbitrary boundary that doesn’t serve anyone, get rid of it!
I didn’t need to say ‘no’ to him climbing through the fence. I could have explained why it might not be a good idea and then let him make his own decision. This would have helped him feel empowered and trusted and I wouldn’t have been triggered.
A barbed wire fence doesn’t look good and it can hurt you. Creating boundaries with your kids is the same. It is messy and emotional but so important.
Have you noticed that fences are made up of multiple wire strands?
We don’t parent in isolation!
Parenting isn’t something we do; it is a relationship with our children that we work on everyday. A barbed-wire fence is stronger because the two strands work together. The same goes for parenting. Connection-based parenting can be difficult and uncomfortable and it takes time. It will lead to a stronger bond with your kids though, which is invaluable.
Our children have needs, but so do we. We should work together to meet those needs within the family boundaries. This creates a beautifully messy life that fulfils everyone. It also models for our children what a healthy, respectful relationship looks like.
A strong relationship takes time, engagement and your presence.
Relationships take work! Parenting takes work! As our children develop, they change and grow into their own people. And guess what? You change too! I am definitely not the same woman I was when I first became a mother (thank goodness). Like farmers check the fence line for weak spots and breaks, so we need to keep checking in with our kids and working on our relationship.
It is often a tedious and thankless job…. until your child comes to you with a big problem, or asks for advice, or shares something important with you. They will only share those things with you if they feel safe, loved, and respected. If those relationships aren’t kept strong, aren’t kept healthy, you will miss out on those moments.
You also need to remember to take care of yourself and your needs. You must take time for yourself to do the things that fill your cup and bring you joy. If you don’t, you will find yourself pulled taut with no patience for your kids or your partner. Parenting shouldn’t break you, but it will if you let it.
Be strong, stand firm, and respect your time and energy because you deserve it and so do your kids.
So, like a barbed-wire fence, parenting can be difficult to negotiate. It can be a tangled mess but also straightened out when you work together. It can create space for love and respect but also teach tolerance and compromise. So, tell me, how is your fence looking?
Hey, I'm Caitlin
Writer and Mom. Coffee, crochet, and creative writing are helping me navigate the chaos of motherhood as I share my knowledge and offer support to busy moms.