Shifting My Focus Away From Perfect Parenting

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I’m call myself an unschooler.  A gentle and peaceful parent.  An empathetic parent.  And most of the time, I am.  But sometimes my actions don’t quite line up with my declared parenting style.  Honestly, there are times when my actions are diametrically opposed to my declared parenting style.  I’m selfish.  I put my own needs before the needs of my children.  I yell.  I get agitated by things that don’t matter.  I fail to see things from my child’s perspective.  My fear of imaginary things that might happen causes me to harm the relationship I have with my children.  Sometimes I worry that by the time I figure out how to be a decent parent, my children will be grown.

Since achieving parental perfection seems to be out of the question, my focus is now on three main areas.

Admitting and Apologizing

What I did was wrong.  I shouldn’t have behaved so poorly.  I’m sorry.  No reason to try to cover it up, justify it, or ignore it.  We all make mistakes, and my children appreciate my willingness to be open, genuine, and vulnerable.

Learning and Improving

I am committed to constant improvement as a parent, and nothing helps more than making mistakes and learning from them.  Its hard to feel down about being a bad dad when I look at how far I have come in such a short amount of time.

Remembering and Empathizing

My imperfections remind me that we are all human.  Remembering this helps me to be more understanding when others exhibit imperfect behavior, and to respond appropriately.

So, I can’t teach my children how to be perfect, but I can set an example in repairing relationships, using failure as a stepping stone to success, and showing empathy and compassion to broken, hurting, imperfect people.  And I think that is just as good.

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Replacing Your Unfounded Parenting Fears With Empathy for Your Child

If I had to sum up what is wrong with our society in one sentence it would be this:  “Too much fear, and not enough empathy.”  This is especially true in our dealings with children.  I struggled for far to long (and still do at times) with the misguided and unfounded fears of parenting.

What if someone yells at my child?
What if he turns out to be ungrateful?
What if people think I am a bad parent?

All these concerns are not centered around the well being of my child, but my own personal fears, prejudices, and desire for comfort.

I strive now to replace these with more important questions.

What is best for my child?
How must my child be feeling in this situation?
What might she be thinking?
How would I feel if it was me?

Being empathetic toward your children not only allows you to care for and protect our societies most vulnerable individuals, but also shows your child the importance of being compassionate.  It empowers them, and helps them to realize that it is okay to have feelings and emotions, and they are not something to be afraid of, hidden, bottled up, or dismissed.  It creates a healthy environment where burdens are shared collectively, and conflicts are resolved respectfully.

Conversely, hitting, time-outs, yelling, control, bribery and artificial rewards (which in my experience are almost always rooted in fear) let children know that their feelings are unimportant and insignificant.  Children learn to keep their emotions, desires, and thoughts to themselves.  Either out of fear of being labeled a whiner (or worse), or simply because they don’t think anyone cares.

Daddy, Why Aren’t You Helping Me?

When I was a new father my wife and I lived quite far from our families.  We made a trip to our home town when our first child was about a year old.  Her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were excited to see her.  So when someone reached to take her, I gave her up right away.  She grabbed onto my shirt and started to cry, but was pulled away into the arms of someone who to her was a stranger.  She looked at me, confused at first, then her eyes filled with terror as she continued to cry and reach out to me.  My family assured me that this is just what kids do, and you have to let them cry sometimes.  But she wasn’t “just crying,” She was telling me something.  She was trying to communicate.  “I’m scared, daddy,”  “I don’t know what’s going on,” “I’m not sure who these people are,” “Daddy, why aren’t you helping me?”  But her pleas fell on deaf ears.  I did not want to make waves or upset my family.  What would they think of me or say about me if I wouldn’t allow them to hold my child?  I figured it wouldn’t do much harm, so I did my best to ignore her crying.  My wife, however, did not share this sentiment.  She put our daughters needs before her own fears, and refused to ignore her desperate cries.

The Result?  I severely damaged the relationship I had been building with my daughter, and she learned that she couldn’t trust me.  She didn’t feel safe with me anymore.  For some time after if I was holding her, and something made her feel uncomfortable, she would seek out my wife, someone she knew would listen and understand.  Someone she could trust.

Even though a lot has changed since then, we still don’t live in a perfect house where it’s all daisy chains and unicorns.  We are haunted by the ghosts and scars of fear and control.  But every day we increase the love, the compassion, the respect, and the empathy, and every day we grow a little closer.

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The Dinosaur Family (Never Lose Your Dinosaur)

You may be surprised to find out that Dadosaurus Rex is more than just a catchy title of a insanely fabulous blog, it is also a lifestyle.  My family is proud to be a dinosaur family.  So, what does that mean exactly?  and why does it matter?  Lets take a look at some dino characteristics.

Dinosaurs are hard to ignore.

No one ever asks, “Hey, did you happen to see the stegosaurus that was standing behind us at the market?”  They don’t have to ask.  They know you saw it, because you were both quivering in awe of its majesty and greatness.  You were filled with a mixture of fear and confusion at the sight of the colossal beast .  When you meet a dinosaur, (should you survive) it is not likely an encounter you will soon forget.

Dinosaurs are big.

They are indeed “terrible lizards”, and you will know it when you see them.  Gargantuan, not always in mass, but in style and panache.  When a dinosaur is near, you can feel the earth shaking with each magnificent step.  But don’t let this intimidate you, they are ferociously friendly, and love meeting new creatures.

Dinosaurs are often misunderstood.

It is a sad fact, and it is painful to admit, but the world isn’t exactly crawling with dinosaurs.  Because of this, there is a lot about dinosaurs that the average citizen may not understand.  This results in rumors, lies, confusion, and fear.  The best thing you can do to avoid all this is go straight to the source, and ask a dino.  Dinosaurs aren’t shy, and they are perfectly willing to patiently answer your questions.  Stay and chat long enough, and you will find that you and the humungous reptile have become fast friends.

Dinosaurs are diverse.

At present over 700 different species of dinosaurs have been identified and named. However palaeontologists believe that there are many more new and different dinosaur species still to be discovered. ~The Dinosaur Museum, Dorchester

Dinosaurs are not cookie cutter creatures.  They don’t break the mold – They pulverize it.  Each one is unique and unashamed.  Why should they be afraid to be themselves?  There is no need to conform, compare, or compete.  (Because of this, it is good to get to know Dinosaurs on an individual basis, what is true of one may not be true of another.)

The Dinosaur lives within you.

Somewhere, deep inside, you can feel it.  There is a roar that is longing to blast through your jowls.  There are times you just can’t resist the urge to stomp.

Pump your massive clawed fists in the air, and let it out.  Let the world know you are a dinosaur, and you are not going to hide it anymore.

“Never lose your dinosaur”

Now please enjoy this video clip  and get on with your bad dinosaur self.  (BE WARNED: There is a small bit of questionable language!)

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