How to Stop Feeling Like Parenting is an Ongoing Battle
It was the end of another day.
I snuggled up next to my little guy for some cuddles and books before sleep.
I heard the voices in the other room begin to escalate in level and intensity.
I took a breath and let it go.
Determined to stay present where I was.
To release the need to intervene or think I had to fix.
If I stopped to listen, it was almost comical.
My husband with escalating demands for our son to put on his pjs.
My son just as forceful in his refusal.
My husband making threats (of what I’m not even sure).
My son rising up to his fury with a steely determination to not give in.
I looked up to see my husband in the door
With a look of what do I do to make him put on his pajamas.
I gave a little shrug as if to say, “you’ve got this.”
And returned my focus to the book and the boy I was with.
When the book was done and boy #2 was all tucked into bed,
I took a few deep breaths before entering I wasn’t sure exactly what.
I saw my son and my husband sprawled out on the twin bed
with careful precision to not actually touch each other.
I gave my husband a little nudge as if to release him from this battle.
I sat down on the edge of the bed and looked at my beautiful son.
”Hey, buddy, it’s time for bed,” as I offered him his pajamas.
”I’m too tired. I need help.” Still caught up in the battle with Daddy.
“I hear you,” I said. “It’s time to get your pajamas on.”
Offering them again. Softly he took them and began to make the change.
As he did I reflected on how I would have handled this just a short time ago.
His ‘I need help’ met with a big no, you don’t, get your pjs on now.
I would have entered ready for battle.
He finished with the pajamas and we laid down for a few quiet moments of cuddles.
”I love you,” I whispered as he drifted off to sleep.
My husband was waiting at the bottom of the stairs.
”How did that go?” he asked
”Fine,” I replied, “no problem.”
”How do you do that and how can I?” he asked in almost desperation.
Don’t engage, I said.
Don’t react. Don’t let your emotions take over.
If you don’t engage there can’t be a battle.
You can set and hold the limit. And not engage in their dislike of the limit.
You can hold the limit and not make it a you vs them.
If the moment becomes not something you’re trying to win, but supporting your child through you see flexibility where it didn’t exist before and solutions that benefit both of you.
I’m faced with situations daily that very easily could fall into a power struggle with each side rising up in defense of the need to be right and independent. To not feel controlled.
If your goal is to control your child, it will always be a power struggle.
If your goal is to create influence and offer guidance, you don’t have to engage.
If your goal is connection above any behavior, your focus shifts to empathy and understanding.
The one thing you need to do to stop feeling like parenting is a constant battle is to stop engaging with your child like it is.
You can absolutely hold limits without engaging in a power struggle.
Done with consistency, this is how a child learns to relax. When we are constantly in battle mode, we are also constantly engaging a child in the need to fight to be right. The more you say, “do this” the more they puff out their chest in a just make me statement.
We typically fail in having clarity on the limit we want to set.
Without clarity, you’re left simply making demands.
Without clarity, you’re trying to have enough patience to not explode.
Without clarity, you can’t see the steps between where your child is and where you’d like to guide them.
Without clarity, you can’t see why this actually matters to you which leaves you feeling like you have to defend yourself not from a firm foundation but from a slippery slope of getting your way.
Without clarity, it’s very hard to be consistent because every voice against it feels like conflict and manipulation.
Without clarity, there’s no opportunity for growth because you don’t have the long game in mind but compliance in this moment.
Did I mention, you should start with clarity in setting limits?
Begin by looking at where your frustration lies.
This is a clear sign that your reality is not matching your expectation and instead of simply continuing trying to force your reality to match your expectation, use the information to guide you.
Be really clear about the limit you’d like to set around the expectation.
Ask yourself why. Why is this limit important? Is it a safety issue or health concern for child, others, or property? Why does it matter?
What are the steps you need to put in place to support your child to meet the expectation (hint: it’s not more motivation or demands for compliance)?
Then the secret ingredient is consistency.
With love and calmness. Your child’s dislike and questioning the limit is not because they want you to give but because they want to know they can trust you to hold it. Without the battle. Accepting all of their feelings about the limit with empathy and compassion.
My boys are unhappy about their limits everyday.
Around screen time. And bedtime. Candy and homework.
They voice their feelings of disappointment or anger or unfairness.
Sometimes that looks like releasing those feelings with yelling or stomping around.
I’m very clear both to myself at which limits are most important and clear with them about the expectation.
I’m also flexible with listening to their perspective and sometimes that means choosing their plan.
It’s not about winning.
It’s about teaching them how to navigate in a relationship and that happens with connection, empathy, and understanding.
Where this gets messy is when you stop engaging and your brain floods with how the heck do I get them to do what I want now. You’re left trying to band-aid your growing frustration with having enough patience. And when that doesn’t work, you’re able to justify your attempt at peaceful parenting with a “we tried it and it just didn’t work for our family.”
That’s because you don’t switch off this belief you have to be in control or your child’s behavior is a direct reflection of your parenting by snapping your fingers. By wishing. By wanting.
Behavior change is hard (and that’s what this is because you are working to undo conditioned responses to life).
But it’s also not only possible. But possible right now for you. And the beauty is, you don’t have to rely on anyone else to change so you get the experience you desire.
Change is possible when you decide it is.
What experience would you like to be yes for?
What would it mean to no longer engage in these power struggles?
You no longer have to feel stuck in the stress, overwhelm, and yelling, unless you decide that staying stuck feels safer than asking for support to create the change you truly desire.
Announcements and Offerings
Shifting your perspective sets you up to see what’s possible, the first step in creating the change you desire. Grab this free download “10 Mindset Shifts That Can Completely Transform Your Parenting” to begin to see parenting a little differently.
Ready to dip you toe into this whole coaching thing and really see what’s possible? The Mom Map is a powerful 90 minute 1-1 session designed to take you out of overwhelm and into confidence with a strategic discipline plan to setting limits with your child peacefully. For $149 you will walk away with my 5 step process that you can apply again and again in your parenting. Schedule your session here.
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Hi! I’m Irene, the owner and founder of Irene McKenna Coaching. I’m a parenting coach passionate about supporting moms to experience relief from the stress, overwhelm, and frustration of parenting (and their child’s behavior) to create a more empowered reality filled with peace, joy, and connection. I’m a mama to two amazing little boys and partner to a beautifully supportive man. I loves dancing it out to Bon Jovi, reading all the parenting and self-development books I can get my hands on (seriously!), and drinking kombucha out of a wine glass.