What do you do, immediately after having reacted poorly to your children?
I acknowledge it, right then and there. I am so used to it now. :) This was a process. In the beginning I’d only admit to myself that I was wrong. Later I started to come back to the girls and tell them I’d been wrong. Now, I don’t let time go by. I stop and say, “Okay. I’m sorry for what I just said. I should have let you speak, Ryleigh.”
Sometimes I catch myself imposing a punishment without meaning to; one that has nothing whatsoever to do with the problem at hand.
A few weeks ago with Ryleigh, there was some problem with the dishes that we discuss EVERY. DAY. and she is simply not putting in the effort (she’s said as much to me). I told her that she couldn’t use her computer for the rest of the day, because she just wasn’t working with me. WHAT?! I immediately knew I’d made a mistake, so I stayed quiet and thought to myself. How is not using her computer going to teach her to pay attention when we clean? It won’t. What is the real problem here? It’s that she’s not motivated enough, for whatever reason. She’s a kid; just wants to get it done; doesn’t fully appreciate why it’s so important; has a very different idea of ‘clean’ than I do, etc. Will taking her computer away address any of these issues (or the ones I don’t know about), or will it just soothe my need to exact punishment and make her obey? Is my action motivated by love for Ryleigh, and a true desire to help her to learn and to grow? Did what I just say show Ryleigh that I am just and that I make decisions out of love? That is what will make her want to work with me, right? So is that what I just did? No. I thought all this in my head and then I came right out and said it to her. Honest reflection plays a major role in my parenting. At times it takes me a while to come around to the truth, or to accept it as truth. But the more I do it, the more natural it becomes.
“You know what Ry, I’m sorry I said you can’t use your computer. Not being able to use your computer isn’t really what happens when we don’t clean up. I’m just so frustrated about these dishes. We keep talking about it. But your computer has nothing to do with this problem. You can use your computer today, but can we talk about what we can do to make it better?” Ryleigh gave me a great smile and we talked for about ten minutes. Ten measly minutes was all it took, and since then the dishes have not been a problem. Because of that conversation we had, I am more aware that I need to work more closely with her if I expect her to learn; and she is more aware that she needs to pay attention more so that she can work to her full potential. We both want to do this, because it affords harmony to our household. I put us on the same team, instead of making it Mom And The Power Over The Computer vs. The Powerless Child. I struggle with remembering that my children’s belongings are sacred to them, and that I should not toy with their ownership over them as though they have no rights. Punishment and losing privileges were tactics my parents used and they only worked because I wanted my stuff back; not because I wanted to get along or because I felt I should do what they’d asked.
I make sure to discuss with Ryleigh what the natural consequences actually would be, of certain actions. What if we all half-stepped when we cleaned, every single time? I understand that we get tired or we are hurried or our mind is someplace else; but what would happen if we cleaned that way all the time?
And she tells me: everything would be a mess, we wouldn’t feel good about it, it’d be chaotic.
And if everything is chaotic, will we be able to communicate well? Will we all feel at peace?
And if we don’t feel at peace, will we get along well?
So, pitching in and working together and putting in effort is for the good of each of us individually, and for our family as a unit. Do you agree?
Yes, she does agree. She still hates to clean, but she loves her mom and her sister. That is what motivates her to do well. Love. Not a fear of me or of what I will take from her.
Often that’s all it takes for Ryleigh to ‘get it’. Children do not have to be made to feel badly, in order to want to listen. We can learn without being humiliated or angered or saddened. I actually feel that a lesson sticks with Ryleigh much better when she feels empowered at the end of a conversation. Addressing a misstep with my children puts them a bit at edge, because that is never their goal. I don’t need to add to their disappointment.
What if every time I lost my cool or wrongly imposed a punishment, someone felt the need to shame me or to take something of mine; until I was a better parent, the kind they think I should be? I wouldn’t be very enthused about doing better. I’d feel rejected and hurt and angry, and those emotions might cloud my judgement further. Or I’d just be too preoccupied with making myself feel better, to care about any of it anymore.
Making mistakes as a parent is to be expected, and I’ve begun to embrace it. I see all my mistakes as opportunities for me to be my own Rabbi. I learn from myself through reflecting on my actions and words. I have seen that being patient and gentle with my children truly produces results that leave everyone feeling good. I have to remember that that is my goal. To teach with love, never to just get my children to obey.
What do you do, immediately after having reacted poorly to your children? Tell us in the comments.