I love kids. I've babysat. I've taught in the public schools. I taught in private pre-schools. I've taught Sunday School for kids from age 3 all the way through high school. I've even subbed in some kinda scary classrooms where there was a one-to-one ratio of students to teachers and a "cool down room" where one little girl could go when her anger got so out of control she starting kicking and throwing things. I actually enjoyed that assignment. And you know what? The first day was the only really scary one (that's the day a student heaved a desk across the room). The second day I came in, the kids looked at me funny. They were very well behaved and they did their assignments nicely. There were no outbursts that day. I wondered what was going on and then one of the kids leaned over and whispered, "Why'd you come back?"
In speaking with the teacher afterwards, it seems that not many subs come back. The kids do a pretty good job of scaring them away. The kids in that classroom were dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. Severe cognitive delays combined with a history of abuse for a few of them. It's not surprising that they don't trust very many adults. It's easier to push the adults away before they have the chance to push you away, right?
Much of my experience with kids occurred before I have children of my own. I always had a picture in my head of the three perfect little angels I would birth. No shouting or bribing would come out of my mouth! I would not be that parent at the grocery store trying to calm a screaming child who wanted candy. And there was no way my little ones would disturb another family's meal at a restaurant.
I was a perfect parent. Before I actually became one, that is! Beginning on October 5, 2003, however, my dream of a perfect parenthood began to dissolve. Not because Frances was a bad kid. She was actually fairly easy, especially for the first. But I very quickly realized that parenting was a lot more work than I had imagined. And juggling work and family was not quite what I had expected.
Fast forward 12 years, and I am always on the lookout for ways to improve my parenting skills. I've talked a lot here about trying to yell less. We have failed chore charts documented online. If eye-rolls were nickels, I'd be rich! But I'm still committed to being the best mom I can be. That's why I was excited to read Nina Garcia's new book, Parenting with Purpose.
I've read Nina's blog, SleepingShouldBeEasy.com, for a while now. The catchy title drew me in, but her very gentle approach to parenting is what has kept me coming back. Better than just being gentle, though, Nina is real about her parenting. She has documented her struggles (she's got toddler twins, trust me, there are struggles!) and offered her bad days up in order to help others who are going through similar trials.
Her book is a continuation of her blog and a great resource for parents. Many of the things she says are things that I know, but have trouble putting into practice regularly. Knowing the right actions is very different from actually doing them when the going gets tough.
She had me right at the beginning when she wrote
Let's get to the real definition of discipline: discipline is teaching our kids. Because isn't that what parenting really is? Our job is to arm them with the skills they need and would serve them well in the future so they grow into kind adults who can regulate emotions or empathize with others.Parenting with Purpose takes you right back to the basics and encourages you to look at and remember the simple things: these are your precious children. As parents, our job is to guide our children into adulthood. We are the primary teachers of our offspring and those teachings come from every part of us. It's not just what we tell them that they hear. Actually, the words we say out loud are often ignored. Most of our teaching comes from what we do and how we treat them.
I've been sick this week. Being sick makes everything else harder to do, parenting included. I took a day off from work to help my body recover. I spent much of the day reading Nina's book to help my mind recover. There's been a lot of yelling this week, from both "teams." But when I sit back and reflect, the kids have been treating me and each other in much the same way that I've been treating them. We've all been rude and on edge with each other. We've all had short tempers. I'm the only one who's sick, but we're all acting that way. Because I am the role model and they follow my cues.
That doesn't mean that I can't ever be sick, but it does mean that when I'm sick, I need to try a little harder to not show it and I also need to be more forgiving of myself and them. No one has it all together all the time. Parenting mistakes are made every day. The important part is to look at those mistakes, learn from them, and move forward, better armed with knowledge and experience.
Nina concludes her book with 20 actionable items you can do to better connect with your kids. They are simple and straightforward things to do; habits you can create within yourself for the betterment of your family. This book won't make your parenting gig easy, but it will make your parenting more purposeful, and that will improve things immensely.
Parenting with Purpose is a great book for taking a look at your own parenting practices to affirm what you're doing correctly and to look more closely at your problem areas. It's also available for FREE on Amazon for Kindle right now, so if you want to take a look, now's the time to do it!
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