I got lucky, for the most part my kids have always been pretty quiet, well-behaved people. But sometimes I wonder how much of that is really luck, and how much can be attributed to the way I treated them from the moment they arrived.
I know there were times when they would interrupt me while I was in the middle of a conversation, or they would grab for food without asking first, or they would squabble over a toy. My first three boys were spread so far apart it wasn't difficult to work with each of them and keep my frustrations to a minimum.
However, that changed when Maddux and Mia came into the picture. I was older, they were two years apart, and I had three other kids already (in elementary/middle/high school) so I know I was frazzled, making mothering the two of them when they were little a true test of my parenting patience.
They look like little angels in these pictures, right?
There were days (especially when they were between two and six years of age), when it was a significant challenge to honor their individuality and to stay patient when they needed redirection. But I made every conscious effort to do so without trying to make either of them feel bad about themselves. Some days it took everything I had in me, some days I fell short. But I never gave up on myself.
Because everybody gets excited and impatient and stubborn at times in life, right?
When I found this video in my news feed yesterday, it reminded me of how much patience it takes, every day, to treat our children with the dignity they deserve.
Take a moment to watch it and see if you can identify with the message...
The video is meant to be funny, right? Truth be told, we (moms and dads) find it amusing because we have either lived it, or we are currently in the thick of it. But, let me ask you, when you get past the humor, what do you see?
I see condescending parenting.
The women in this video aptly illustrate a common message in our culture: we expect our kids to never interrupt our discussions, we expect our kids to wait to be told what they can and can't do, we expect our kids to listen to us the first time we speak. And if they don't, we will (in no uncertain terms), put them in their place.
We (as parents) expect, and often demand, respect.
And yet, ofttimes we don't model this for them. I regularly hear many moms and dads who feel the need to power over, or for some reason make sure their children understand their place in the world.
The message is this..."I am above, you are below. Remember that."
It's not that kids don't need structure, or to understand it's polite to wait until someone is done talking before speaking themselves...even if they are excited. But, it's all in how you go about redirecting your child when it needs to be done.
I find I am truly enjoying the preteen and teenage years with the last three kids, and I believe it's largely because of how I have always treated them and how our relationship has developed. I love and honor each of them and I am grateful to be a guide in their lives.
When I hear other parents say their teens are rolling their eyes, or talking back, or calling them names it makes me sad, because it's really not the way it's supposed to be. Unfortunately, our culture constantly promotes and reinforces this message: Beware of the Teen Years: Teens = Bad Attitude + Rebellion!
Adolescence (at least in my experience) is such a great period of time, when I get to partner with and watch my child work through their challenges and unravel who they are becoming and in what way they want to contribute to the world.
What a gift!
I wonder what you find challenging in your relationship with your children? Whether they are preschool or preteens, are they becoming people you want to spend time with, or are you barely tolerating one another?
If things aren't going so well, maybe it's time to change your approach to parenting...