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Reciprocal Parenting - A Mommy Miracle

Which parenting style suites you?

Well, with so many out there how are you supposed to know?

If you're anything like me you've read as many books as you could get your hands on to make sure you are doing things right!

Love & Logic

Family First

How to Raise Emotionally Strong Boys


How to Raise Good Humans

The Book You Wish Your Parents Would Have Read

Ok, I've only read the first three... and when I just googled parenting books I was disheartened by the options.

And then there are shows like Nanny 911 that I love to watch honestly not only to just get tips on parenting, but to see that other parents are doing worse than I am so I feel better about myself (I can't believe I admitted that).

The moral of the story to start off this blog is that there is no RIGHT way to parent, but there are some definite tips that can apply to everyone to help get you on the right path for your family and it really is based on YOU understanding the psychology of your children's development and where you and your spouse are in your own mental health.

Here is a helpful graph to show you the ways that parenting can be done, and you can see where you fall:

I'm sure from looking at this you can probably tell that the more favorable way to parent according to research and the world of psychology is Authoritative. Kids need the structure, but they also need emotional warmth and respect.

There is one word in that top-right quadrant that I want to point out, and that is "Reciprocal."

Can I just take a minute to stress this with all my energy.


I want to talk about this in a more harsh, no fluff, real talk tone. This is not to condemn you. This is to totally call MYSELF out and let you know that this ONE THING completely changed not only parenting, but my entire relationship with my kids. This has had an impact on their own emotional regulation and self-value. It's incredible to watch the difference.

Let me explain what this looks like:

Before Reciprocity a situation might look like this:

I just picked up the kids from daycare. The ages in my car are 2, 4, 6 and 7 years old. This is after a full day's work. They are loud. They are excited about their day. They all want to tell me about it at the same time. In the 10 min drive home, they say mom about 50 times collectively. One starts telling me something exciting about their day. That triggers an exciting thought in another child, so that child starts talking about their day too. The first child yells that they were interrupted and screams out. The second one screams back. The other two are arguing over a toy that was left in the car, "That's mine!" "Well, I found it!" "Yeah but its mine, give it back!" "No, I found it first" and then they start pulling on the toy and it breaks. Now everyone is crying.

I'm trying to drive without looking back to see why there are blood curdling screams. The car in front of me hits their breaks to slow down for a stoplight that I'm not seeing because I was looking back. I slam on the breaks and it's a close call. I'm angry now because I'm feeling the adrenaline of the fear of crashing pulsing through me and my heart rate is fast.

I scream at them to stop fighting and let me drive.

When we get home I have to start dinner and feed them within 30-45 minutes to stay on schedule. The fighting and interrupting and bickering continues along with begging to get on screens. My nerves are shot and I'm unable to take it. I send everyone to their rooms.

Later that night after I put them to bed (another struggle with all four), I reflect on the evening and feel like the worst mom ever.

Fast forward to the implementation of Reciprocity:

I pick the kids up from school, now they are 4, 6, 8 and 9.

Again, they are all excited about different parts of their day. Nothing has changed in regards to the fact that I have worked all day, and they have been stimulated all day as well. They are still wanting to tell me all about their day, and they are still fighting with each other about different things.

I've learned to treat all of them like I would like to be treated using reciprocity. If I was excited about something and wanted to tell someone, I'd want to be heard. So before anyone starts yelling out, I ask each kid how their day was. If there is an interruption I stay calm and let that child know that their turn is next and they will appreciate not being interrupted during their turn.

When there is fighting I remind them that I cannot drive safely if I have to check the mirror and to please keep us safe by solving their problem. The person who solves the problem gets an extra "positive stroke" when we get home.

When I know I have had a day of overstimulation at work, I put in my noise reduction plugs when we get to the house so that the high-pitched noises don't cause me irritation. When I put them in I narrate it, "Kids, I'm putting my ear plugs in because my nervous system feels overstimulated today with all the noise and business. I can still hear you, but this is how I'm letting my body have a break." This is literally just to let them know that it's ok to feel a little irritable, and that when they feel that way it's important to do something to help them relax. I've taught them tapping, taking a walk outside in their bare feet, punching a kick-bag we have in the house, doing pushups or squats, or singing/humming a song, taking three deep and long breaths, or sitting quietly on their bed for a few minutes alone. I've also done all these things in front of them while explaining it so they can see it in action.

And one of the most important parts - talking to them exactly how I would hope they would talk to me. Even when I'm mad, I let my face be mad, but my words have to remain even. I can sound stern and assertive, but I don't yell, scream or blame/accuse anyone of anything. When they are loud, I say, "Guys, my nervous system isn't handling the noise very well right now, can I please have some help with that from you all? I just need a few minutes of quiet to let my brain calm down for a minute." instead of the usual, "Everyone shush! I can't hear myself think!"

When they say something unkind to me, which happens a lot in my family due to some dynamics that are unusual for our situation, I'm able to let them know that I appreciate their respect when they talk to me and treat me nice. I don't appreciate the mean tones or negative words.

I know this all sounds very odd, but it REALLY works. You can ask some of my friends and family that have experienced this new way of using psychology behind my parenting.

Here's the bottom line. Every time you invest in yourself by reading a self-development book, learning to regulate your emotions, chase a dream you have, practice self-care and self-love, set a goal, create positive self-talk and affirmations, you will be improving your parenting.

But the main thing that will help you is to literally treat your children EXACTLY how you would like them to treat YOU and each other. This will make the biggest difference.

It falls right in line with the Authoritarian parenting style.

Here's something that just happened today. My four year old was playing with her brothers and she felt like her brother got too rough. She ran to her room and slammed the door screaming, and then locked it.

I have rules in my house that the doors are not to be closed unless you are changing and the doors are NEVER to be locked.

The old me would have marched over there and said, "Unlock this door right now! We do NOT slam doors and we NEVER lock them!"

Instead I put myself in her shoes. I thought, "How would I want to be treated in this moment." If I was so scared and angry from someone hurting me that I ran to my room and slammed the door and then locked it, that probably means I would have felt scared that I almost got hurt, angry that someone I love would do that to me, and upset that no one asked if I was ok.

So my first action was to knock gently and say, "Hey can you unlock the door so we can talk?"

The door unlocked. I opened it.

There she stood with tears streaming down her face.

I knelt down and opened my arms without saying anything.

She fell into them and cried, "He hurt me!"

I said, "Yeah. Did that make you scared?"

She nodded.

"Did it also make you angry?"

She nodded.

"I understand. Do you feel safer now?"

She nodded.

"Do you want to come snuggle?"

She nodded. "Can we go watch Bluey in your bed?"

I laughed. "Of course."

Once she was calm, we talked about why we don't lock the door or slam the doors when we are angry, but I let her know that I understand the strong emotions she experienced.

If I would have told her not to lock the door when she was feeling such strong emotions it would have done no good.

This kind of parenting takes a LOT of patience and reflection. You have to really stop and imagine yourself in their shoes and ask what needs are not being met in order to see this behavior.

But it is WORTH IT!!!

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