It can be very hard to be kind to a child who continually pushes our buttons. I know; I just spent the last two hours trying to calm myself when my youngest son woke me up early then proceeded to throw things, hit me, not eat the cereal we fought about making for half an hour, and disagree with everything I said.
One of the most liked comments on my facebook page was, "Wow. Three-year-olds can be crazy making."
Hands down my greatest challenge as a mother has not been about finding work-mom balance, it has been how to stay calm and facilitate growth through the natural wild behaviour children have. Children's brains are growing when they are freaking out. If I freak out too, the part of their brain that is reactionary will grow, if I can stay calm, the part that governs rational thought will grow. I know I want to be calm, but wow, it is hard to do. Really hard.
My daily question to help me stay focused on being calm is this: what is my nice-to-nag ratio today?
I can say that every family who has come to see me in my psychotherapy practice with "misbehaving children" has had a very LOW nice-to-nag ratio. In some cases, the nice is almost zero. Children use behaviour to communicate until they can find the words to express themselves, and misbehaving children and their parents (and teachers) can get into a pattern where the bulk of any communication to that child is corrective. "Stop it! Why are you doing that? Why won't you listen?" Again, it can be hard to be nice to a child who, in your mind, is always blowing it.
"Your ability to enjoy your child may be the most important factor in his development." Laura Markham, PhD, author of PEACEFUL PARENTS, HAPPY KIDS
I remember staring at this quote in Dr Markham's book. She is so right. If I can stop myself from hurting/ scaring my child or continually being on my child's back when they need direction, I won't be contributing to their negative self-talk. Children push away from their parents when they experience too much wounding from them.
Do you like to be around people who are continually on your case? Neither do your children.
An exhausted, sad mother of a "rebellious teen" looked me squarely in the eyes and said, "I wish someone would have told me this when my daughter was little. How can I possibly take back all those days I constantly nagged her? HELP me get her back." Thankfully, I can report that after a year of that mom's conscious decision to communicate with her daughter openly, she is well on her way to getting her daughter back.
In my next post, I will share the tips that have helped me the most to calm my anger, and turn my nice-to-nag ratio around. The awareness of what percentage of time we spend being nice to our children, and the percentage of time we nag them is the first step.
Photo credit: Flickr – issaikina