Kids will be kids. They will do things that are dangerous, preposterous, and even annoying. But the key for parents is knowing where your kids are coming from. I hope this post will help.
I heard my little baby screaming. It was a scream I’d never heard before and – praise God – have never heard since. My 3 year old had mistakenly put a blanket on top of my baby’s head and could not get it off. It’s why you must teach them this.
He was scared, crying, and curled up in a ball under the covers. I was also mad, scared, and in shock. I sat there holding the baby and my husband was with my son. After a minute or two he whispered, “I couldn’t reach it!”
See, he’d done something not good. But, he’d done it by accident.
When children act (or respond) out of a purposefully disobedient heart, consequences and correction are in order. When they act (or respond) out of a wounded heart, comfort is needed.
It’s a good idea for us to look deeper at our children’s behavior before we spring into action. Some mothers find it more natural to correct (this type and this type) and others find it easier to comfort (this type and this type), but we can all learn to get to the root of our kids’ behavior instead of simply reacting.
Clearly my son didn’t get in trouble. He was as traumatized as I was by the whole episode. After he’d calmed down we thoroughly explained why we can’t put blankets on the baby that cover his face and, believe me, he still remembers that lesson.
In the day to day, here’s how we can be sure we are meeting our children’s needs for comfort while not neglecting the important work of teaching our children consequences and how to take responsibility for their actions.
We correct willful defiance.
I try and find a root to their behavior. One morning my daughter had received a new toy, had a special sugary snack, and watched an hour or TV (which is not normal for our mornings). By all accounts, a great morning for a 4 year old. She then requested a snack and got extremely defiant and angry when I told her to wait 15 minutes until lunch.
She didn’t want comfort. She wasn’t hungry. She was angry that she didn’t get her way. This is a clear example where our natural response would be to correct her behavior, whether through a consequence or a loss of privilege.
We acknowledge emotions.
My kids know I hate screaming. I am highly sensitive to environmental noises and get On The Verge quickly if kids are unhappy screaming. But I’ve realized that I can’t enter a room and get everyone who screamed in trouble. Why? Because sometimes the unhappy screaming is due to sibling terrorization.
The other day I heard a scream (near a sleeping baby, another broken rule) that immediately made my blood boil. I stomped in there and found two children ganged up on a third, and were being unnecessarily mean. Two got consequences, one got comfort.
We don’t avoid hard things.
It can be easier for some moms to empathize, sympathize, and comfort.We’d all like to believe those responses take the place of consequences and discipline since they are more pleasant. And, depending on the child and circumstance, sometimes they will. But most times, a loss of privilege or consequence is in order when children act willfully and defiantly disobedient.
It’s hard to make sure one child doesn’t watch TV if the others can. It’s hard stay at home with one child while the others go to the park because she lost the privilege. By Day 5 of a Day 7 no media restriction it feels like too much. Just because you have to enforce some hard consequences doesn’t mean you are a hard mother. You can be both kind and firm.
We do avoid harshness.
You can carry through with your word without being harsh. You can explain a difficult concept without being mean. Just because you are disappointed in your child’s behavior doesn’t mean you have to be angry and harsh in your words or body language. I struggle with this. It’s my natural instinct (as this type of mom) to think that strong criticism spurs the type of behavior I want. That because it works for me. But that will not work for young kids.
Years ago I had a piano recital. I’d memorized two pieces, and I was backstage practicing 5 minutes before start time. As I was about to play the last night of the first piece, the teacher came in and said “time to go!” I stopped. I couldn’t remember the last note. I sat through those before me nervous and, sure enough, when my turn came to play I couldn’t end the song. I went on to the next song then couldn’t end that one either. It was so humiliating I wasn’t even humiliated. If that makes sense.
Afterwards my mother didn’t correct me. She didn’t tell me I should have practiced more or memorized the piece in sections. She comforted me because that’s what I needed.
But in the end
“You’ve made me so sad, mommy….” my 3 year old said while whimpering from his bed.
Except this time he was sad because he was in bed 15 minutes early without reading privileges. He knew he’d done wrong (multiple times while ignoring us) and he was genuinely sad at the consequences.
“It’d make me sad too if I couldn’t read books before bed. Maybe tomorrow night you’ll make better choices, huh?“
To which he sniffled sweetly and replied, “Yeah, mom, I think I will.”