Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Loving your kids- duh, it works!

My oldest is eleven years old. So I cannot claim to be a really experienced parent. I suppose eleven years of any career ought to count for something, but I still generally feel like I don't know what on earth I'm doing. But here's one thing I am totally positive about: pouring on the love.

I had a discussion with a younger mom-friend recently regarding her one-year-old who is becoming extremely frustrated with anything and everything. The milk she can't have right that second, the fact that her mum has to do something not involving her ten feet away, etc. Young mom-friend was asking for advice on feeling out these new waters with her firstborn. I myself happened to be quite frustrated today time with a certain slightly older child getting upset that I couldn't help them with their math right.this.second, another child totally oblivious to the fact that anyone might be talking when they start a conversation, and yet another child collapsing in tears because he "didn't have anything to do."

What do you do with kids in a stage that persistently exasperates you to your wits end?
That stage where...

  • Your child wakes up grumpier after a nap than before it and screams from 3 to 4 pm every afternoon.
  • You wonder if someone is going to call child protective services every time you give them a bath and try to wash their hair.
  • They bite- hard- when they get mad.
  • They eat absolutely nothing but grapes and cheerios.
  • Life is so unfair, miserable, and horrible because they can't watch TV all day.
  • They stick their tongue out at you and stomp off when provoked.
I'll tell you what I used to do. Get really mad. Yell a lot. Gripe inside about how ungrateful they were after all I did for them. Feel like a complete failure as a mother when I couldn't "stop them" from doing these awful and obnoxious things. 

You can read about my whole mental health transition out of anxiety in my other blog posts, but there certainly was an enormous turning point in my parenting style and confidence once anxiety was no longer controlling my life. I gained a peace and calm in my mind that allowed me to listen and hear the voice of the Holy Spirit guiding me inwardly. And this is what I heard over and over again: love them. Be patient with them. They are trying to figure out how this world works. They need you to be their anchor. They need you to be calm, firm, and unmovable. They need you to be their rock when they are at the mercy of their out-of-control emotions. 

Back when my oldest was a toddler and doing the screaming-for-an-hour and then whining endlessly after his nap, my closest other toddler-mom-friend (whose little girl was doing the same thing) told me that one day after her little one woke up, she heard that inner voice telling her just to hold her. Forget about all the other stuff she had to do. Just pick her up and sit down and hold her. So she did. Just sat there for about twenty minutes, holding her sniffing teary girl. By the end, little girl was calm and happy and climbed off mama's lap and went off to play as happy as could be.

This incident stuck with me, and I began to notice that whenever my kids were acting enormously whiny and frankly, bratty- that if instead of yelling at them I calmly listened and offered my lap and stroked their hair and remained at peace- everything changed. Calmness and reason returned. And honestly, it is at these moments more than any other that I receive apologies from them about whatever it was they were just doing.  

I am not a saint. I still lose my temper. I informed one of my offspring in no uncertain terms today that he was driving me crazy and I was very angry at him for how he had just treated a sibling.   But it is this very idea: showing my kids the endless love, mercy, and grace that my heavenly Father always gives me at my worst- that has changed the dynamics tremendously in my family from where I used to be as a parent. They still have consequences, and discipline, and boundaries- but that is love too, and I haven't noticed any long-lasting resentment from them about that discipline. I think that has a lot to do with never withholding my love when they do things I don't like.

Here's a few other things that help keep the love flowing:

  • Hugging my kids first thing in the morning and telling them I love them.
  • Biting my tongue on critical nit-picking -like pointing out the crumbs they missed wiping the counter, or the big dustball in the corner they didn't vacuum.
  • Trying to remember to tell them things I like about them.
  • Listening. Oh, sometimes this is really hard. Because my mind so instantly wanders when what they are talking about is long-winded and confusing to follow. 
What practical things do you find really shows your kids you love them? I welcome your comments!

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