If I had a dime for every time I was asked, “Hey, are they all yours?” – referring to my children – I’d be a very wealthy woman by now!
People often asked me why I wanted so many children and I’d compare raising a large family to running a multi-million dollar enterprise. If CEO’s can put in long hours of work, sleepless nights, numerous meetings and debilitating travel commitments to grow a successful business then I could do the same with my family. For me it has been worth the effort and the sacrifice!
However, there were days when I wondered if I had the resilience to cope with the demands of building this great enterprise. Over the years I learned to make a conscious effort to regulate my emotions, behaviour, cognition, and when possible my environment in response to stressful circumstances I sometimes found myself in.
And it’s true in the kitchen!
Sometimes raising kids can be torturous! We can feel imprisoned in our homes, or even trapped by our children. But believe it or not even from the depths of despair hope springs! Victor Frankl spoke of hope from the concentration camp in Dachau and came to the realization that …
I don’t mean to compare raising children to living in a concentration camp but over the years I have seen quite a few similarities! For example, the school holidays presented more than my fair share of stressful events. I needed to make a conscious effort to maintain my sense of humor and regulate my coping mechanisms – essential for self-preservation. Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning explains how faith, hope and resilience were virtues that kept prisoners alive in Auschwitz – every parent should read it! Watch the video below for a brief summary of Frankl’s approach to life.
One school holidays I convened a meeting with the children and it was decided the timetable should be: rise, say prayers, dress, make beds, tidy rooms, have breakfast, clean the kitchen and put on the washing. Then they could play. There were certainly enough children to spread out the workload! So with a plan in place I felt comfortable leaving the older children at home doing their chores while I ran some errands with the younger ones.
Three mornings in a row I returned home only to find the children sitting in their pyjamas looking disheveled, playing Nintendo. I think if I had done the PANAS test it would have shown my negative emotions far outweighed my positive ones. PANAS is a measure of a person’s positive and negative emotional state. If your positive emotions are looking a little anemic pick up a few tips from the video below.
I must admit my emotions at that moment were rather negative but I tried to regulate them as I reminded the children of our agreement. I was cranky and frustrated. Then it dawned on me – perhaps my kids were visual learners. So with adrenalin pumping, I ran back to the TV and ripped the cable out of the wall, grabbed the Nintendo, stomped up the stairs, threw open the kitchen door, stormed onto the back verandah and with a deep breath heaved it across twenty five meters of lawn and into the swimming pool narrowly missing water babies as it sank to the bottom.
And it felt sooo good!!! But perhaps not for the children! Their reactions ranged from total disbelief to frustration to anger. I believe it is always good to allow your children to experience a broad spectrum of emotions!
Although my coping mechanisms were well out of control I was doing my kids a favour according to the Ecological Systems Theory. It says that parents who are aware of their children’s behaviours and respond appropriately will experience fewer problems and more compliance with family values. Whether my response was appropriate I’m not sure but it certainly delivered a clear message that modified their behaviour.
My philosophy in life is – no pain no gain. However, I did try to be empathetic and kind at times. Lawrence Lovasik in his book The Hidden Power of Kindness speaks about how kindness, empathy and understanding drive gloom from the soul, sweeten sorrow and lessen pain. I was hoping my children were experiencing this sweet sorrow in their moments of pain.
Children naturally provoke parents – it’s their past-time. They love pushing boundaries to see how much they can get away with. Jordan Peterson a renowned psychologist gives a few tips on developing a disciplinary framework for raising kids in the video below.