I just had one of those life-changing epiphanies that slams into you like a freight train. This one pertained specifically to parenting…
You see, we’re a boy family. I have three of them, four if you count my husband. Five if you count the dog.
Being a boy family, we are also a Lego family. Not that girls can’t like Legos too…but my boys really LOVE their Legos. I would even dare to say that they love Legos as much as my feet hate them.
Anyway, as you would imagine, my boys have some pretty harsh disagreements over those little plastic bricks. They can go from playing nicely to fighting fiercely in 0.6 seconds. Just that very scenario went down this afternoon.
One boy was building contently when another came over and started to help him. Apparently it is taboo to skip a page in the building booklet and boy no. 2 did just that. Boy no. 1 did not like the over-zealous nature of his brother’s building style and began to scream at him for not asking before he added elements to the structure. The argument quickly escalated, as they often do.
So I had them both walk away. Now, boy no. 1, the one who was quietly building before the other came and rudely interrupted him, began to throw a ROYAL temper tantrum. You know the kind…stomping, sobbing, gritting his teeth, huffing and puffing like a bull about to charge a Commodore.
I really, really, really don’t like those kinds of temper tantrums and as I approached my son to correct his behavior, I became very aware of my own emotions (thanks to my mindfulness training). I realized that I was coming at him from an angry, annoyed, disciplinarian perspective which may have temporarily gotten his attention, but it certainly wasn’t going to correct his perception of the situation.
See, kids are very egocentric. They are selfish. The world revolves around them until about age 7 or 8. My twins just turned seven and I suspect they are moving into what is called the concrete operational stage where they can begin to see perspectives other than their own. Regardless, I knew that if I started to yell or act out of my own emotional imbalance, it was just going to perpetuate the cycle and I was simply going to reinforce his behavior of acting out of emotion.
So, I asked him how he was feeling. He was sobbing, face red, fists clenched. He said he was angry.
I said, “so, being selfish and not sharing has made you angry?” He just glared at me.
I asked him if he enjoyed playing with the Lego’s, to which he responded, “yes.” I asked if he thought he might feel better if he had shared his fun with his brother, rather than fighting with him and now being angry and suffering the consequences of his bad behavior – which was not being allowed to play with the building bricks.
I think I saw a light bulb come on while we discussed.
I told him he could have avoided all these upset, hurt, angry feelings if he had merely chosen to share and then I asked him if he thought that sharing might make him feel better next time…he said, “yes.”
So…while I know that this conversation will likely come up 100 more times (probably before the week is up) I learned a few things:
- I like talking to my kids, much more than I like yelling at them.
- I felt really good about not reacting to my emotions, but rather perceiving the situation accurately and creating an environment of growth and love.
- I think my son appreciated the lesson and I think it will stick with him much longer than a yell or a spank may have.
I think the key to effective parenting lies in our ability to manage our own emotions.
Babies cannot communicate any other way than by crying, so our emotions of anger, frustration, and resentment are ill-founded.
Children are naturally egocentric. (And if we’re going to be perfectly honest – I think many adults are too.) So when our children “refuse” to see our point of view, it isn’t because they aren’t listening, it is because they really cannot comprehend any other perspective than their own. Our emotions are invalidated again – but not in a bad way.
Emotions come and go. We don’t have to control them – we must learn to manage them. Recognize them for what they are, temporary feelings. Choose to give the healthy emotions more attention and redirect your attention away from the unhealthy feelings.
When your baby won’t stop screaming and you are sleep deprived, hungry, and trying to do your umteenth load of laundry, choose to give attention to your nurturing instincts and give your child the attention it needs. Cradle her. Caress her smooth, sweet cheeks. Speak softly to him or hum a favorite song. Rock gently in your rocking chair and become aware of the soothing sensations of warmth, the blessings of a baby in your arms, and the comfort of the chair that supports you.
Give thanks for being there to give your child love.
Take an inventory of all that you have done for the baby…is she hungry? Does he have a dirty diaper. Did she burp yet? Did she startle herself?
Once you begin to focus on what is good, you’ll be much more able to make an accurate assessment of the situation and determine what in the world your little one could be screaming for. I’ve been there. I’ve dealt with colic and screaming twins.
There is life beyond that moment and the more love you put into it, the sweeter your life will be after it.
I hope my epiphany encourages you and inspires you to choose love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I know there are LOTS of moms and dads out there who could use some encouragement. Share this post with them.