Have you all ever been in that sort of cycle with a child? Maybe the child gets really angry, you get angry and yell, the child yells, it all comes to a head, you both cry, but the cycle repeats. So many mothers I talk to feel sad, feel guilty, and can’t understand why things have to “come to that “ in order to really communicate with their child. Mothers also feel most guilty when they have things going on within their families, adult things, and the stress of what is going on comes out in the way they deal with their child’s behavior.
If you are in that sort of cycle with a particular child, give yourself a hug. Sometimes adult life is difficult, and it is hard to keep our frustration, anxiety, worry or even anger from spilling out. No, it is not ideal, but it is reality and in this day and age where parents have little support to send a child for an afternoon to a grandmother or aunt whilst they sort out adult things, sometimes it just happens.
Some children are easy-going, and others just are not (and sometimes we wish we were easy-going, but we have to admit that we are not either, LOL). Sometimes children are just in a hard place developmentally, or the family is in a hard place, and we really are trying to do the best we can do. We all make mistakes along the way. You can actually use this time as an opportunity to develop your own self-control, your own ability to keep your mouth from moving, your own time to just stop and pray and listen for the best thing to do.
Because the thing is this: there is no textbook and no cookbook of “do this, then do that” to make it all right. Parenting is an art, not a science. We are all learning on the job for that particular child for that particular age. Every child is an individual and every family has different dynamics.
It is important to really stop and think about what will serve that child in that individual moment but also to have an eye for the bigger picture. Development does take a long time,maturity helps, but what we do as parents counts toward raising our children to be good future spouses and parents. Gentle discipline starts at birth. Look at what the child is presenting to you. Help them, and love them.
If we make sure and certain that our expectations are reasonable, then we have to ask ourselves, how are we communicating what we need? A small child needs you to move their body along with the words you use.
A child that is running away from you, or laughing at what you said is so challenging, and you may need the energy of the situation to change before things are resolved in a positive manner. Perhaps you just need to stand still for a pause and then continue on with some work whilst you breathe a minute. Perhaps you need to interject some humor – so hard when you are exhausted and you were patient the first fifty times this behavior occurred earlier today! Perhaps you need your spouse or a different family member to step in and change the energy, if that person can be calm (and if you are not a single parent!). Only you can decide when is the right time to draw that child in to guide that child: is it right there in the moment or does it need some space and then guide that child?
Not guiding the child and not setting a limit is NOT an option, but the timing is an option. If you are angry, then you need that cooling off space, and some children need to see you continue on for a few moments in order to know that their behavior does not derail you or the family. Limits are vitally important. I also think in these hard stages we must work to cultivate our own authority throughout the day, not just in the hard situations. How do we draw our children in to help in the family throughout the day? How do we set a rhythm that works for this particular child who is having a hard time, but also for the needs of the whole family?
We have to do our own personal work about ourselves and this child on an ongoing basis – have we prayed about this child, meditated on this child and what has come to us? How are we applying what has come to us about our child?
Forgiveness, picking battles, love, humor, movement, space and time where you do not move or speak, then guiding that child – this is how we do it. Parent in love, even in the hard moments. Breathe, and don’t just react.