If you aren’t sure how to be super kind and compassionate and still kinda strict… this post will help you be the empathetic mom you want to be without being too soft on your own rules.
It can seem like we mothers are left with two options.
- To be firm and strict with our kids, or
- To be empathetic and understanding of our kids.
You can either be the mother who expects her kids to tow the line and doesn’t allow backtalk or disrespect OR you can be the type of mother who supports her child through their feelings and develops a close emotional bond.
The reality is… you can be both.
And I’ll take it a bit further and say this…
Moms who are faithful to enforce their family boundaries actually have more energy, compassion, and empathy to show their children.
- When our kids repeatedly ignore what we’re saying, we become bitter and resentful.
- When we don’t respect our own limits or boundaries (watch my video about this here) we become weary.
- We are tired and worn out.
- We don’t see why the kids need understanding and empathy, seems like they should just get on with it.
Two Separate Things Are Happening…
The reason you can both hold your family rules and be an understanding empathetic mother is because those are two separate things at any given time. Let me explain with an example.
Our normal family rule is this: after play time you can’t come out of the room until it’s cleaned up.
This has always been the rule, it’s never changed, it just is. The reason behind this rule is that I’m the mom and I just want it to be like that. I’ve got 5 kids and I’m not going to pick up after them for the next 15 to 20 years.
One of my kids, on this particular day, did NOT want to clean up. He’d made a huge mess (something I don’t mind since I don’t have to clean it up), but was now ready to go outside and play. He started flailing, and saying his stomach hurt, and giving every reason under the sun why he shouldn’t have to clean his room.
This did not trigger me.
Because I knew he would eventually clean it and that I WOULD NOT HAVE TO, I did not feel bitter or resentful towards him. Instead, I looked around his room, and knew exactly why he was pitching a fit!
“Oh, baby, you do NOT like my rule about cleaning up,” I said.
“NO, I HATE cleaning up!” he answered.
“Yep… cleaning a mess is definitely not as fun as making a mess,” I replied. “The thought of cleaning it all up makes you so mad because you want to be done in here and go outside and play, right?”
“Yes, my stomach hurts and I’m too tired. I can’t clean,” was his answer.
“Oh, lovey,” I responded, “Maybe you can just lie there on the bed until your tummy feels better and then you can clean up SUPER FAST so you can go outside. Let me know if you need some medicine for your tummy.”
I walked out. He flailed a few more minutes and whined a bit, then cleaned up super fast and was done.
This took all of a few minutes, and I had both (a) empathized with him and shown genuine understanding and (b) given him space to carry out my rule.
- I did not feel bitter and resentful because my rule got followed.
- He did not feel bitter and resentful because he was heard, understood, and given the time and space to get his feelings out then get on with the cleaning.
Family Rules Brainstorm SHEETS
Want to start brainstorming some rules that might make your family life more peaceful and secure? These rule sheets will get you there.
Being An Empathetic Mom Is Not Being Soft…
For many of us, the feeling that we are empathizing or showing understanding make us feel we’re being too soft.
We worry the kids will not have grit, gumption, or the ability to stand up when under pressure. We think (or worry, obsess, and agonize) that by being firm, expressionless, or slightly cold that we are better teaching our children to follow our rules, but that isn’t really true.
Because we can be kind, loving, and nurturing while still expecting our children to keep our boundaries.
In fact, that’s the jackpot of parenting!
I’m certainly not saying it’s easy, but it is possible. You can be right there with your kids emotionally while still expecting them to do what you expect them to do.
I like to call this: being kind and firm.
Because The Less You Enforce Your Rules, The Unhappier You Are
The reality is this… the less you hold tight to your family rules and values... the more unhappy you’ll become. Of course we cannot control our children’s every move (how exhausting does that sound?) but we can keep our family rules without having to justify ourselves.
How can you not?
You want your kids to do chores… they don’t care.
You don’t like the fighting… and they’re always hitting each other.
You tell them to stay in their rooms… they always come out.
And on and on… pretty soon, you’re a temper ticking time bomb waiting to explode.
Related Posts On Obedience And Holding Boundaries:
- Got A Disobedient Child? Start With These 4 Things
- 4 Strategies For When Your Child’s Not Listening
- Toddler Behavior Stressing You Out? Reset With These Simple Tips
By Recognizing You Can Do Both, You Free Yourself
By recognizing you can both be a kind loving and empathetic mother AND keep all the family boundaries and rules, you free yourself.
You’re not wrong for having rules.
You’re not “soft” for showing empathy and understanding.
In fact, children will be far more willing to obey your rules if you can show a little understanding. It won’t make them skip happily to their chores necessarily, but it’ll cut down on the frequency and duration of power battles.
Things To Remember:
- You don’t need to justify your rules all the time | If you feel strongly about something, it’s a boundary. And unless it’s morally wrong or abusive (fat chance of that if you’re reading a parenting site) then don’t second guess yourself. It Just Is. You hate balls in the house so the rule is balls outside only. Don’t get into a 25 minute conversation with your child and allow them to explain why it’s okay. If it’s not okay with you it’s not okay.
- You can empathize and understand and walk away | Some schools of thought encourage you to stand by your child throughout a meltdown or a tantrum until its completion. This could last an hour or much longer and these mothers must not have (a) jobs, (b) housework, (c) other children, or (d) on edge nerves. If you have any of these, feel free to empathize, show affection and understanding, and then allow your child the freedom to process their own feelings without thinking you need to spend all afternoon soothing a tantrum.
- The more clear your boundaries are, the happier everyone will be | The thing about boundaries is this… they are there whether you’ve told your kids about them or not. You might hate loud noises but have never taught the kids to have inside voices. Every time the kids get super loud you Go Nuts and Get Angry because that boundary (quiet inside voices, not loud ones) is there, whether you’ve made it into a “rule” or not. It’s best to make your boundaries easy to understand rules so everyone stands a chance.