The Hardest Part of Parenting Is Not Being Able To See Results Right Away


Recently, I had one of those rare moments where I actually got to see the fruits of my parenting labors. It was pretty amazing. 

We were standing in a hotel bathroom in Greece when my three-year-old daughter began to get worked up about something. Of course, I had no idea what was wrong and her crying seemed to me to have come out of nowhere. As she escalated, I felt myself getting triggered. Attempting to keep myself under control as I helped her do the same, I told her firmly (and probably too firmly if I’m being honest) to use her words.

My little girl with her long blonde hair cascading over her shoulders and tears streaming from her big green eyes began to get more and more agitated. But then, she spit out: “I NEED TO CALM DOWN FIRST!” 

Wow. I shut up right away and left the room. I heard her consciously slow her crying and take several deep breaths. I peeked at her reflection in the bathroom mirror and watched her let out a few shudders and gradually gain her composure. She then beckoned me back, calling, “I’m ok now.” And then she clearly and calmly let me know what had been bothering her.

My three-year-old had very clearly self-regulated. I felt so proud of her; it was truly one of my proudest moments throughout her short life. 

But you see, this wasn’t just chance. It wasn’t some developmental stage she stumbled upon and figured out on her own. Nope. We have been working on this for quite some time.

When the tantrums first started around age one, I started taking our daughter into our room and shutting the door. I modeled deep breathing, closing my eyes, and I was there to hug her if that was what she needed. I narrated what we were doing, telling her, “Oh, it looks like you need to calm down,” and, “You’re calm now. Let’s go back!” 

Right around age two, she could self soothe. I did not have to go to the room with her, she could go by herself and follow the steps of deep breathing. Generally, I still needed to decide when she needed “calming time,” but I felt very comfortable shutting her in the room while she calmed and then getting her back again a couple of minutes later. 

I was never concerned about any negative connotations to “isolating” her because I had never introduced time-out as a punishment. She didn’t even see it that way.

About a year later, I found myself with a very young child who could identify overwhelming emotions and tell me what she needed. I’m so grateful that my child could be so empowered at such a young age to identify that she needs calming time and intentionally self regulate. 

As a former elementary teacher in the inner city, I have to tell you: not having these skills at an older age is a major handicap that affects kids in many areas of their lives. Self-regulation matters, and it needs to be taught and practiced explicitly. The best place for this to happen is in a loving home.

Diving into a parenting style is a wild ride. I have persisted, doubted myself, defended myself, and wondered if I was wrong all along over and over and over. It is hard to push through with a positive style of parenting when you simply don’t get compliance as fast as a punishment-based style. 

I think for me, the hardest thing is feeling like I’m in the spotlight. A wise friend once advised me to remind myself that parenting is my work towards long term goals that I have set. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks because my job is not to make those people happy. My job is to put in the work now so that my daughter develops skills that will help her in her future. 



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here