We all know that kids don’t like doing what they don’t like doing. Insightful, huh? But seriously. There will be many times that you do something for your children’s own good they don’t like. It seems cruel to them at the time, but in big picture thinking…. it’s kind.
Maybe it’s just me, but only since motherhood have I realized that my kind gestures may be perceived by others as acts of cruelty. I always thought of myself as a fairly nice person until my children reacted to the strangest things in tears and tantrums. I often stop and ask myself, “am I a mean mom?”
Motherhood is not for the faint hearted.
When children are little they are very much affected by our parenting choices and behaviors. They are still too young to understand that not everything good seems good at the time. They don’t care about tomorrow, next week, or next year. They care about now. They care about this instant. They care about you giving them what they want.
And that’s only natural. They are, after all, young children.
Sometimes you’ll make choices that seem cruel, but that really are kind. Sort of in the, “this hurts me more than it hurts you” way. And remember, making our children angry enough to throw a tantrum isn’t always a bad thing. For them or for us. Without further ado, 10 parenting behaviors that seem cruel but are kind.
1. Saying no
No one likes to be told no, it’s just the way of human nature. There is some thought we should limit how often we tell our children no. I definitely believe directing in the positive is often more effective than prohibiting in the negative. Still, there are many situations in which we need to tell our children no. This is not to be hyper controlling or dictatorial, but for their safety and well-being.
If they won’t listen to “don’t hit your sister” they aren’t likely to listen to “don’t walk across the street.” Much of our days are filled with freedom and play, but it’s important they learn to obey our “no’s” for their own good.
2. Making them do things on their own
“Never do for a child what a child can do for themselves.”
It’s the joy and privilege of a mother to love her children by doing things for them. However, there comes a time when doing things for our children they can do for themselves becomes a crutch. In fact, children’s self-esteem and self-confidence grow when they see themselves as capable and able to contribute. My children will often ask me to do simple things for them and my response is to kindly instruct them how they can do it themselves without my help. If they still can’t do it, I say, I’ll be sure to step in. They almost always scurry off to complete the task themselves.
My children will often ask me to do simple things for them and my response is to kindly instruct them how they can do it themselves without my help. If they still can’t do it, I say, I’ll be sure to step in. They almost always scurry off to complete the task themselves.
“Noooo shower, nooooo bathtime!”
“I don’t like that toothpaste, mommy!”
“Don’t wipe my face!”
“No cut fingy nails. No cut fingy!”
Perhaps naively, I assumed children would appreciate all our efforts to keep them clean. Oh they come around after they are stripped and splashing or after the nail clipping torture session is complete, but they will put up a fuss. There are certain practices we do multiple times throughout the day (bathing, wiping, washing, brushing, cleaning) for their own health. It can be a tedious fight, but it has to be done.
4. Feeding vegetables
My children are not picky eaters, but that doesn’t mean they do a happy dance when they see broccoli or cauliflower on their plates, and fight for the leftovers. Diet is an important factor in children’s behavior, sleep habits, health, and development.
Sure they’ll survive on tater tots and goldfish crackers, but the habits we set in childhood and beyond will stick with our children for their lifetimes. If we make a healthy diet a priority (I like the 80/20 rule myself), children will benefit in more ways than you can imagine.
5. Monitoring screen time
Even children who love the great outdoors can usually be convinced to sit in front of the TV like zombies quite happily. 30 minutes turns into an hour which turns into 3 hours. TV in itself is not a horrible thing, but experts and parents alike agree that too much TV gets in the way of other activities that will provide a greater benefit to our kids. Time for their imaginations to flourish, read books, play with siblings, or engage in creative play. Don’t feel guilty if the kids watch some TV now and again. But don’t feel guilty when you shut it off, either.
6. Enforcing consequences
There is that period immediately after a behavior when we feel happy to discipline or lay down a logical consequence. Then, after some time has passed and all is back to normal, there is the desire to backtrack. Or there may be the desire to rescue our children from feeling any negative consequence of their actions.
It’s our natural tendency as mothers to protect our children from anything unpleasant or harmful. But protecting them from unpleasant consequences is most definitely not helpful in the long run.
“Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.”
7. Requiring sharing
I read a post about why sharing isn’t always something we should require, and I agree with many parts of that article. But, I also think that within a family sharing is essential. There are not 4 (insert how many children you have) of every toy, book, or dress up outfit for everyone to have equal access.
If the toy a community, turns must be taken. Just because you really love the blue stegosaurus does not mean you can hide it in your room so your brother can’t ever play with it. If we don’t require at least some level of sharing we’ll raise children who are self-entitled.
8. Putting them to sleep
I will state this as fact, and don’t send me hate mail. Children don’t always know what’s good for them. Of course they know what they like, what they want, and what makes them happy or unhappy. But they don’t understand the big picture. At least small children don’t. Your kids may fight naps and bedtime.
They may try to engage you in 45 minutes of question and answer time as you try to slink out of their room in the evenings in an effort to delay the inevitable. They’ll be in delirious hysterics with blue bags under their eyes telling you they are not tired. Of course they don’t want to stop playing to rest, our sweet angels! But sleep deprivation is not a method of torture for nothing. People gotta sleep.
9. Having them finish what they start
I’ve long touted how important it is we raise starter-finishers. It is much easier to start something than it is to see it through to completion. This is not something that comes naturally and must be taught. Kids will take out an entire game, play for two minutes, then move to something else. They’ll hop from one activity to one activity without completing anything if you let them. Of course, we shouldn’t stifle their creativity or curiosity. But, friends, it’s not torture to require your kids to finish one game before they start another. It is, after all, a game designed for their enjoyment.
In our hardware store there are child-sized buggies for the kids to push. They always want to push them for the first half of the trip, and then attempt to abandon them mid-shop. I say no (refer to #1). After a few minutes struggle they realise resistance is futile and continue. This is not to push my children into slave labor and force them against their little wills to exhaustion. It’s one way I show them to consider their choices and actions. You don’t have to push a buggy, but if you do choose to do so, you’ll push it until we’re finished.
10. Making them sit still on occasion
There are many schools of thought on this, and research even shows that learning can occur just as easily without actually sitting still in the process. I am sure that is 100% true. Still, sitting still and calm is a sign of self-control and I believe it’s important we put effort into helping teach our children the skill. The self-control that allows them to sit still for five minutes to read a book is the same self-control that will stop them from running into traffic when you say “stop!”
So next time they look at you and say that you are mean or ruining their life, know that it’s only short-lived. When we make choices for the good of our children – even if they don’t see it at the time – the positive effects will outweigh the bad. Love, hug, cuddle, kiss and tell them you love them to the moon and back. Give them attention and your time and let them share their emotions. Love’s not only about making others “happy” but about doing what’s best for them.
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