Hi all, I’m Bethany DeCollibus. I’m a mom of 2 and a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist in Massachusetts. Professionally, my area of interest and specialty has always been child behavior and family interaction. I use a family systems lens and work with families to deepen their understanding of the ways that family relationships and interactions, as well as the child’s environment can impact child behavior. For the last 3 years or so, however, I’ve been at home with my little ones (3 and 1 and a half) and let me just say… wow. I am amazed every day how much I’m learning about myself as a person, a mom, and about how I’ll adjust my approach to working with families in the future.
Let me explain…
Parents have SO much information flying at them from all angles.
Anyway, you get information (welcome or not) from friends, family, strangers, books, google, scientific literature, social media, and the list goes on…Some of it’s good and some of it’s not. Some of it will resonate with you and some of it won’t. I’ve always felt that you’ve got to find a balance somewhere between what the “literature” says, and what feels right to you as a parent.
Of the “good stuff” out there, something is still SERIOUSLY missing when it comes to platforms that discuss child behavior. Most social media parenting accounts, parenting books, and scientific literature, seem to focus on education about “what works” (consistency, structure, routine, predictability, follow through with setting limits, praise, etc…) There’s also a lot of education around “what’s underneath” behaviors, and “why” kids behave the way that they do, with a hope of helping parents better understand their kids and then hopefully better respond to their behaviors. And this is great, and it’s also really aligned with the way that I have always worked with families.
But what I notice missing, is information and support (and maybe just more acknowledgement) around all the things that ACTUALLY get in the way of doing all those “recommended things” or even just the things that you want to do as a parent (recommended or not) on a daily basis.
- What if you’re late for work and you don’t have time to ride out the tantrum, so you decide to give your kid the chocolate chips they are screaming about so you can get out the door?
- What if you and your spouse don’t have the same parenting philosophy, and you don’t agree on rules or how to respond to certain behaviors?
- What if you’ve tried so many times before to do something, and it didn’t work, so your just feeling hopeless?
- What if there’s a family event that’s smack dab in the middle of nap time so you have to choose whether to blow off the event and follow the schedule that’s supposed to have a major impact on your kid’s nighttime sleep, or skip naptime and then be anxious for the rest of the day about how difficult bedtime/ nighttime will go?
- What if you’ve finally started to have success with getting your toddler engaged in “clean up time”, but you realize that you’re late to pick up your older child from soccer, so you don’t follow through with that part of the routine, and then the next day when you try to enforce “clean up time” you basically get laughed at?
- What if your anxiety or depression is so debilitating that you feel like you’re in a fog all day and you’re just putting one foot in front of the other and making sure your kids are fed and safe all day?
- What if your in-laws are visiting and you know that if you say “no” to your 5-year-old that he/she is going to start hitting and kicking and you absolutely bare to let anyone see that you have zero idea how to handle it?
- What if you become so frustrated with your pre-teen ignoring your requests to pick up after his/herself and you wind up getting into an argument and power struggle instead of setting that firm boundary and staying calm like you had planned to?
I realized that I was also, in some ways contributing to this failure to acknowledge barriers as I was working on content for my professional page on Instagram. Even though it was something that I had always worked on with families on in practice, it wasn’t coming out as strongly on my social media platform. I had been posting about structure, consistency, and various other family interaction principles, and then I thought oh wait, this is not necessarily what’s going on in my own house, and to a certain extent, shouldn’t it be? Because I’m the therapist, right? Nope. My kids are getting Bethany the Mom, not Bethany the therapist. I mean I think that my “moming” is certainly influenced by my education and training, but I definitely don’t wear the therapist hat at home. Bethany the therapist though, should be acknowledging more with respect to this topic, and contributing to helping families identify what’s getting in the way, and then helping them address those barriers. I hope to start speaking more to the ways that LIFE is gets in the way of doing what you plan to do as a parent, sitting with that for a bit, and then figuring out how to break down those roadblocks.
I too, get trapped on the floor of my toddler’s room at 2 am because sometimes I decide it’s a great idea to throw all the sleep training and coaching I’ve done out the window (not a plug for sleep training, just what we chose for our child) and go into his room…and then I can’t escape because his door is super squeaky. All because I’m so tired that I say to myself “fuck it”, I’m going to give him a pacifier, because I need to sleep this minute. Not twenty minutes from now, not two days from now, when it will likely have run its course, but right this very second. Fatigue, and my mindset around solving the short-term problem, but not thinking about the long-term effects are two of MY barriers to “sticking to my sleep plan” for my toddler. And there I am…on the floor…not sleeping, all because I just want to sleep so badly…
Written by: Bethany DeCollibus, M.S. LMFT