One of the most common retorts to connection-based parenting is that it “doesn’t work”. Initially, it looks like babies don’t sleep as well as those who were sleep trained, toddlers don’t behave as well as those who are punished and rewarded, and they may be viewed as “too” dependent.
Now, we know that this approach to parenting is NOT a quick fix. It’s a lifelong journey that is based in relationship and who we ARE to our children, not what we DO. We recently read Atomic Habits by James Clear and so many of the conclusions he drew to the power of habits directly applied to how we parent our little ones.
Today we’re going to talk through our favourite 3 lessons he presented and walk through how we can apply them to our parenting journeys.
Lesson 1: “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”
This is a great starting point because it starts with our day-to-day interactions with our children. Every single interaction you have with your children is a vote for the parent you wish to become and is always building your relationship with your little ones. Now that doesn’t mean we can’t make mistakes as parents, but we do need to be aware of how we’re interacting with them overall day-to-day.
Let’s apply this concept a little bit.
When your baby wakes at night and you respond, Every. Single. Time., that’s casting a vote as a responsive parent who meets their child’s needs day and night.
When your one year old lashes out with a hit and you gently block their little hand and lovingly let them know you won’t let them hit you, that’s casting a vote as a gentle parent who will lovingly support them through their lack of impulses until they can control them themselves.
When your two year old erupts in tears over something that seems small to you but really big to her, that’s casting a vote as a safe space for her to turn to no matter how she’s feeling. Whether she’s happy, sad, silly, or mad, you love her and you’ve got her.
Focus on all the great things you’re doing to foster a strong relationship with your child!
Lesson 2: “If you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.”
What if you’re not currently parenting the way you want to be parenting? What if you’re feeling guilt at the end of every day for the ways you might have fallen short? We’ve been there and we totally get it.
The good news is that you don’t have to completely change everything overnight.
If nothing else, parenting is a life-long learning experience and we’re growing and changing as parents every single day. Clear reminds us that if you can get just one percent better each day for a year, you actually end up 37 TIMES better by the end of the year. Liberating right?
So what’s one small change you can make with how you respond to your child tomorrow? Can you pause and take a breath so you’re able to respond instead of react? Can you find an opportunity to add connection where you usually use separation? Can you view your child as immature instead of misbehaved?
Then continue to build on that one change the next day. When you look back at the end of the week you might start to notice a tiny change, by the end of the month you might be thinking “hey I’m onto something” and by the end of the year you might not recognize the parent you are today!
Lesson 3: “You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.”
This is probably one of our favourite takeaways from this book, but it’s so relevant when it comes to parenting. We know there are quicker ways to get your children to appear to do what you hope they can eventually do. You can sleep train your baby to eliminate the signals all night long, you can reward your one year old to have him appear better behaved, you can use punishments like time outs with your two year old to have her appear more emotionally regulated. But, as Dr. Neufeld asks, “at what cost”?
We know that separation is one of the most wounding experiences any human can face and research has shown that rewards and punishments are detrimental in the long run, but still we can’t help but second guess if what we’re doing is the right thing in this big parenting adventure we’re all in.
Today we want to reassure you that your trajectory matters far more than your current results do. If you’re parenting a small child and you’re putting in the hard work that doesn’t always lead to immediate results, you’re parenting for the long-game. What you’re doing today is laying the foundation for the relationship you will have with your child for the rest of your life. The work you’re doing today, even if you’re not seeing the results, is going to amount to great things in the future. Whether it’s a week, a month, or a year from now.
As James Clear notes, “Bamboo can barely be seen for the first five years as it builds extensive root systems underground before exploding ninety feet into the air within six weeks.”
Keep it up everyone, you’re doing amazing!