One day last week I was listening to a podcast from Progressive Parenting about the attachment parenting principle of responsiveness. For those who aren't familiar with the concepts behind attachment parenting theory this is where to find out more. For me I sort of stumbled across this style of parenting purely by accident, not realizing there was a word (let alone a whole theory) to describe how I was already parenting by my own basic instinct. I didn't read any parenting books when I was pregnant, or even give much thought at all to how I wanted parent or what type of mother I would be. All I knew was that I would love my child with every part of myself, and the rest would get worked out as we went along. I guess in some way I always viewed parenting as a partnership between parent and child, and so in my mind there wasn't any way to know what that would look like until I got to know who my child was.
Since the day Bean was born I've been on a very steep learning curve! And in more recent times I've turned to books and blogs for advice and ideas on how to handle the various challenges that come up in each stage of her development. Hence, how I came to listening to a parenting podcast while I was driving home one day!
The lady being interviewed (one of the founders of Attachment Parenting International) was asked about how best to handle difficult behavior from a child in an attached and gentle way, and her answer really struck a chord in me. She said, that the one major difference between handling challenging behaviors positively versus negatively is curiosity. It's a word I don't use or hear used much in relation to parenting but as soon as she said it something clicked for me. Curiosity, she said, is the key to building and maintaining a connected relationship with your child, particularly in the times when they act out, because a parent who approaches their child with curiosity is much more likely to be open, calm, and empathic in dealing with any given situation. So rather than reacting to difficult behavior with anger or frustration, or skipping over tantrums with standard responses, a parent who has a mind set of curiosity stops to think 'Hmmm, why is my child doing this? They must be feeling something. What are they feeling? What can I do to help?...'. Being curious about our children is the way to get to get to know them. And I mean really know them, not just the outer surface which is what they show us with their behavior, but what lies underneath that behavior - their heart.
So now when I spend time with Bean I remind myself to remain curious, because the one thing I want more than anything in our relationship is to know each other. One of my biggest regrets with my own family is the feeling that they don't really know me very well as a person, and that I don't really know them that well either. That's something I'm working on, and as an adult this is a much more difficult process as the pattern of the way we relate has already become deeply ingrained. But It's never too late to change your perspective on how you relate to your children (or anyone else for that matter), they adapt to change much faster than we do and like a bud waiting for spring they blossom under our consistent nurturing, gradually opening up to show us the beauty and complexity of their bloom.
With my own little Bean I'm determined that I want to know her - both her light and her dark, her interior and her exterior. And the best way to get there is to be curious.