Sometimes kids suffer, and their behavior suffers, because of us. The danger is that they get blamed, when in reality, life is difficult, and oftentimes, there is no one to blame. Recently I read this quotation from the book Loving the Little Years: Mothering in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic, and it really got me thinking:
“Let’s say you are trying to get ready for church, and one child is disobedient (something petty, like not putting on their shoes when you told them too)…. You take that shred of guilt and then harness onto the stress of the whole situation. You make your child into a scapegoat, a way for you to release all of your tension and stress onto someone who you feel deserved it…. the consequences for his sin go way up, and the consequences for yours go way down. “
For several months I have mulled over it and gone back to ponder her words.
In our house, certain things can get in the way of healthy Mama-daughter interaction. I want to discuss some reasons kids are naughty, when we parents can make it worse on them. The things I’ll focus on are miscommunication, parental exhaustion, and parental confusion.
The other day, my daughter was headed out to the playground with her Daddy.
While he waited outside, she came inside and announced, “Daddy wants me to bring a box of tissue.”
I wanted to say, “No, just take a few kleenex in your pocket,” because the box of tissue had already been left in the car once that day. But I thought better of it. “If Daddy wants you to then, OK. But make sure you don’t lose the box!”
I think we all know this, but it is a good reminder. I could have said one thing, but it would have caused her to disobey Daddy. Sometimes we have to be careful of the words we choose. If we as parents contradict each other, it sends mixed signals to the kids and they’re not sure who to listen to or what to obey.
Recently, my husband was out doing some work late into the evening. He came home later than promised, caught up in the work he was doing.
After communicating with him, I decided to go ahead and feed the girls dinner. I was watching the girls, and it wasn’t his fault – or their fault- that I was exhausted. But I was. During dinner, the girls tested me and tried my patience. The two-year-old didn’t want to sit in her booster, but because I let her sit in a big-girl chair, she wanted to wiggle her way out. The five-year-old complained about the food on her plate, and refused to eat her broccoli, no matter how hard I tried and cajoled her. The one-year-old kept screaming a high-pitched scream of frustration about one thing or another.
No matter how hard I tried to stay cool, calm, and collected, I was frazzled and upset. Oozing from my mouth wasn’t a loving attitude, setting a loving atmosphere at the dinner table. Oozing from my mouth was anger, correction, self-righteousness, and self-pity. It is no wonder they were acting upset. My exhaustion was making things worse for them.
This is a pretty common situation in our home- and one of my least favorite things about our day, but it is part of life, nonetheless.
Recently my oldest daughter broke down crying because she wanted to watch “just one more episode of The Magic Schoolbus.” I tried to figure out how to keep her occupied for another few minutes until Daddy got home, but I knew we were infringing on bedtime. I told her she could watch part of a show, which I knew would probably be a mistake from the get-go. I searched for the next episode on the DVD, and when I found one, I turned it on for a few more minutes of distraction.
It was not the one she wanted. It was one she had already watched. I couldn’t figure out how to skip to the next episode. Meanwhile, I have this thing about DVD’s and computer games. They make me cringe when they don’t work the way I want them to. In a moment of frustration, I shut down the DVD player, and the tantrum escalated to unheard-of proportions. I told her to sit in time-out. That didn’t work. She screamed bloody murder. I told her she would get spanked if she continued yelling out. She continued yelling out.
I knew she was tired, but I think she was in need of correction. I’m thankful he got home, because I honestly don’t know what else I could have done.
Here’s the thing. Perfect behavior doesn’t exist all the time – in kids or in grown-ups! And general good behavior is simply not without a lot of work and effort on our part. In the first experience, I didn’t want to contradict my husband in front of my daughter. In the second experience, I didn’t want to blame my self-pity or my sheer exhaustion on the fact that my husband wasn’t around. In the third experience, I didn’t want to blame the tantrum on the fact that I couldn’t figure out how get the right episode to play on the DVD. I can’t use those things as excuses.
I could go on. Our inconsistency can lead them astray. So can our hypocrisy, or our incompetence, or our desire to raise kids who are just like us. Or it could be a combination of things. If it seems that they are acting up, we should always check ourselves, our attitudes, and our motivation. Rachel Jankovic encourages us to strike overwhelmed from our vocabulary. To quote her again,
“I may be overwhelmed, but I may not say that I am overwhelmed! The words have a real power over us. You give yourself that little room to say, ‘But I can’t!’… The situation may be crazy, but you are the person responsible to get the grace to deal with it.”
I am challenged by these words. Parenting requires a lot of patience, a lot of firm, loving correction, and discipline. We can enact patience and in turn, teach it. We can re-phrase things. We can parent in love, without hurting our kids in the process. Lord, help us.
Copyright 2013 Tacy Beck