Today, my son – who has since birth been stuck to me like a leech – told me he wanted to sit away from me, “to have privacy”. He didn’t want to play with the toys I had set up on a mat to keep him occupied while I got my 30-minute run on the treadmill. He wanted privacy.
No, he isn’t a boy on the cusp of puberty, needing his independence from his Mama. He is a 4-year old little boy.
After giving him his space, I approached him, sat down in front of him, and asked him why he had wanted to be alone. He looked at me woefully and said, “Because you talked to me in a mean way.”
My heart broke.
I hadn’t shouted at him. I hadn’t used harsh words on him. But I did talk to him impatiently and curtly, feeling justified to do so because he was “bugging me” during my precious time for myself. Because I was tired and my mind was focused on the things I hadn’t been able to do (like this post!) and it was already 5 in the afternoon. Because he wasn’t listening to me when I told him to just wait a few more minutes for me to finish my run. Because, because, because…
There are so many reasons, but none that really make enough sense to talk in that way; to one of the people I love most dearly in this world. Don’t get me wrong – I am a firm believer in structure and rules, guidelines, and helping children realize what is right and wrong. BUT, I am also a firm believer that we need to parent in love and positive discipline; and that children – despite their being small in stature – deserve as much respect as everyone else.
As I sit here typing this up, I realize that really, whenever I get impatient with my son and let it get the better of me; whenever I fail to respond to him with love and care, it is usually because of the following reasons:
- I am in my head, versus being fully present and mindful of him and the situation we exist in.
- I have all of these expectations of how I think he should act, versus seeing what is actually happening and trying to figure out why it is happening that way.
- I keep all that - the negative emotions/thoughts/stress, in my head, versus actually verbalizing them and talking through them.
We try to teach our children to calm down and breathe; to express what they feel, talk, communicate what’s going on in their heads – but we don't do it enough ourselves. And the more we keep shoving those things down, the uglier it comes out – impatiently calling out at our kids, being overly-critical, zoning out and not really engaging with them.
How can we parent more kindly, with more respect, and more love? Here are some ways I've found to have helped me become a kinder person to my child:
- Hold yourself in kindness, respect, and love FIRST – It seems almost simplistic to say this, but most of the Moms I talk to – myself included – are guilty of not doing a lot of self-care. I find that when I am exhausted, lacking in sleep, and just generally not treating my Self with honor and respect, it is very, very difficult to parent a 4-year old with love and patience! ;) So the next time you find yourself short-tempered, take a breather (yes, it is okay!), schedule some time for yourself, and get back that energy.
- Our children deserve our respect, just like any other adult. – Another simple truth that so many of us forget. Why is it so easy to let our patience run out with our children, but expand that patience a hundred times over with others? Children, despite their young age, feel the same emotions we do, and are infinitely more intelligent than we give them credit for. When was the last time you sat down with your child and talked to them honestly and frankly, trusting in their capacity to understand? Whenever I have the presence of mind to do this, it works wonders with my son!
3. Focus on the WHY. – When things go crazy and your child refuses to sleep/eat/listen or “purposely” defies what you say, focus on the WHY – why do you do all these? Why do get up every hour to feed your baby? Why do you continue to wrack your brain on ways to get your child to eat? Why do you continue to try to teach your child what is right? On days when things are not going your way, the power of your Why will save your sanity!
At the end of the day, we must trust in our selves and in the love we have for our children... even if some days, we'll need to dig deep to get past all the insanity! ;)
How do you intentionally choose love and kindness when dealing with your child? I'd love to hear from you in the comment box below!