|Image credit greengardenvienna on Flickr|
1. Think longterm. Invariably, when I slip into this it is because I want short term results regardless of the cost. Like eating junk food when pressed for time, I internally justify it because of extenuating circumstances. The truth is, though, that there will always be extenuating circumstances. If this is truly a priority for me--and it is--then I have to push past excuses.
2. Take a break. When it has already become a pattern that is spiraling out of control, taking a day or two to drastically break the cycle helps tremendously. If I have been yelling, being quiet until I am filtering more easily helps. If I have been rushed or stressed by outside things, taking a day to just focus on togetherness and connection and fun is crucial.
3. Confess. I need to tell my children that what I have been doing is wrong and apologize. I also need to tell my husband to help both of us be more aware of it. Very young children don't always realize that we can make mistakes. They internalize that however they are treated by us is what they deserve. I need to explicitly tell them that it isn't OK for anyone to treat them that way.
4. Make amends. Restoring connection is a process. It won't be a one-time action or apology. I have found that one of the best things is to individually tailor it according to my children's love languages. Ariana needs quality time, like a Starbucks date. Joel needs lots of physical interaction. Elena needs a gift (which does not have to be purchased).
5. Enlist their help. Ask them to please tell me if I start to slip up. Authentic Parenting had a great post on the power of having our children tell us when we are doing wrong. This is such a valuable tool, not just for parenting, but for our children to practice regularly. I didn't grow up with healthy boundaries modeled. It is still easier for me to "be nice" until I reach the breaking point and then explode. This is a great way to actively help my children to learn healthy patterns of interaction so that they will be comfortable with it as adults. Encouraging my husband to speak up if he sees me acting hurtfully is important, too. We are not a united front *against*our kids.
6. Revisit my own GD toolbox. Sometimes, even when we have the tools we need, it seems easier in the moment to just rely on what is handy instead of what is actually best for the job. I need to surround myself with a graceful community to help keep my mind where it needs to be, and go back through my toolboxes (for myself and for my kids) on a regular basis. The more consciously I use all my tools, the happier I am with the results.
7. Remember that grace is for mamas, too. If I start to shame myself (something I still fall into pretty easily) it sabotages my energy and my efforts to change. I have to let go of the shame for past mistakes, and accept love and forgiveness. This one is hard, but essential.
We all make wrong turns sometimes. It is part of being human, and part of growing. The important thing is learning to recognize when we get off track and getting on the right road once more. I am so grateful to all of you for your help as I navigate this journey! <3 A special thanks to Toddler in Tow, The New Mommy Files: Memories, Milestones and Missteps, The Black Sheep Princess, Momma in Progress, Hybrid Rasta Mama, and all of you who commented and shared some of your tips! <3