Biggies and Smallies

The Secret to Peaceful Parenting

I've been parenting, and also observing other people parent, for 12 years and counting. I have read countless books on attachment parenting and child development. Photography is the only other thing I've invested as much time in studying as I have in learning how small humans learn and grow. I'm writing this now because I've got a secret that I want to share with all of you moms that are feeling at odds with your children... 

Chill. Don't take this shit so seriously.

Yes, it is very, very serious... It is the most important job we will ever do. So we absolute should take it seriously enough to crack a few books on the subject and discuss what we're learning with our friends, our partner(s)... Our therapist if need be. 

But if we are striving to do it well, and peacefully.... We need to relax.

*This is a multi-faceted discussion that definitely warrants a series of books, but for the purpose of this post, I want to talk to you about "biggies" and "smallies". 


Biggies & Smallies 

Dr. Sears was my introduction to attachment parenting and one of the things he talked about that has stuck with me all of these years, is the concept of "biggies" and "smallies". 

Divide your children’s “misbehaviors” into smallies (nuisances and annoyances), which are not worth the wear and tear of getting angry about, and biggies (hurting self, others, or property), which demand a response, for your own sake and your child’s. Next, condition yourself so that you won’t let the smallies bother you. Learn to ignore “smallies” and concentrate on “biggies.” A smallie is a behavior that is annoying but doesn’t harm humans, animals, or property, or which even if uncorrected does not lead to a biggie. These childish irresponsibilities will self-correct with time and maturity. Harmless behaviors fade both as your tolerance level widens and as you avoid reactions that reinforce the behavior. Calling your child’s attention to a smallie may intensify the habit or push him into a biggie. Focus on the biggies, and you’ll be amazed how the smallies correct themselves.”
— Dr. Sears

95-98% (not a scientifically accurate statistic) of a child's undesirable behaviors are smallies. The more we learn to let go of the smallies, the more impact what we have to say about the biggies is going to have.  If we're nitpicking and correcting everything our child does, they're going to have learned to abstract our words and they'll have less faith in our opinion.  If we're constantly correcting them, they're set to be on the defensive and we wind up creating a perfect foundation for an adversarial relationship.  

I want to be on my children's team.  

I want to be their biggest cheerleader, their trusted advisor, and their soft space to land. I want them to both hear, and take to heart, the words I speak when it comes to things that pose a danger to themselves or others.  

I want them to trust me when it comes to the "biggies".


A Solid Foundation

This starts in infancy with a solid, connected foundation with a caregiver that responds immediately, and with love, to baby's cues.  

But really it starts in toddlerhood, when their little personhood begins to stretch the limits of our patience and we have to dig deep and find more. It's still easy when they're oh-so-adorable... And then they grow older.

And for anyone that has ever stood toe-to-toe with a three year old, arguing about pig newtons, we know that it takes a lot of patience and wisdom to see through their tiny tyrant facade and honor their innocence. We must dig deeper and find more patience and empathy so that we may preserve that sweet spark of the infinite.  

With the goal of a solid relationship built on a foundation of trust, this whole parenting thing looks a little less overwhelming and a little more like "follow your heart".

Some more wonderful words that have helped to guide me through some of the more difficult moments of my parenting journey....

Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience; you are raising a human being.
— Kittie Frantz

Ditching Crime and Punishment Parenting

I know that for myself, when I am overreacting to a smallie, it is generally because I'm annoyed. Or distracted. Likely both, as I tend to only feel annoyed with my children (or anyone or anything) when I am distracted and not living in the present moment.

The smallies can get annoying, and we can feel greatly inconvenienced at times... But we must remember that it is our job as the adult in the situation, to recognize and deal with our own emotional reactions to things, and let them have the space to be children.

And as far as the smallies go.... They grow out of them. 
They really, really do.

I've had plenty of people from the generations that came before mine, warn me that if I didn't do something about whatever phase my child is currently in, it would stick forever. If I don't make it stop now, he/she will still surely be doing this 10 years down the road. And by do something, these well meaning folks were absolutely suggesting that that "something" be punitive.  My heart and my gut and everything else that makes up my intuition has always felt uneasy about such suggestions.  

And after more than a decade of raising tiny people, I can assure you of this: With gentle reminders, and lots of love and patience, children grow and learn. No punishments necessary. 

I am also keenly aware of the fact that the only thing I really have control over in life is my own reaction to things. I can not control my children, I can only guide them. If I choose to view undesirable behaviors as teaching opportunities, I can have some influence over them. If I choose to view undesirable behaviors as an action in need of punishment, I will likely alienate my child and I have missed an opportunity to impart life wisdom and be a role model for compassion and kindness.

Those beautiful spirits have chosen me to be their guide; their teacher, not their warden.

We are not a crime and punishment household.

Instead, we try to make this whole life/learning to be human thing a team effort. Just as much as my partners and I want to love and support one another on our paths to becoming the best possible humans we can be, we want to offer that same love and support to the littles. 

We are more experienced; we are wiser, and with that experience and wisdom comes a lot of responsibility. It is our responsibility to draw clear, and peaceful boundaries. It is our responsibility to deal with our shit when our little ones trigger us. It is our responsibility to find a path to resolution that is peaceful.  A path to resolution that fortifies the relationship.