I’ve recently taught myself a lesson when it comes to dealing with my children. A really valuable one. And here it is.
Always check your motivation.
If your child is being naughty or doing something dangerous or just being a nuisance, before you go to deal with it, check your motivation. It will make you handle it better. Or at least it’s making me handle it better.
Is your motivation to stop them doing the thing, or is it to vent your frustration? Is your motivation to teach them what they’re doing is wrong, or is it to punish them for doing it in the first place?
So often when Miss Rose is doing something wrong I go to shouting at her, or snapping at her, or lecturing her. It’s because she’s done it loads of times and been told loads of times, or it’s because I’m tired and frustrated, or it’s because we’re in public and I want to get her in line quickly. Not every time, but more than I like. And I always feel bad.
For one thing shouting at her just makes her angrier. Snapping at her upsets her. Lecturing her makes her tune out because I’m going on and on and her little brain just doesn’t compute it all so she stops listening.
When she gets angrier I get angrier. When she’s upset I get upset. When she tunes out I get even more frustrated and talk even more because now not only is she in trouble but she’s ignoring me more.
Basically, I end up even more stressed and cross and she has learned nothing.
If your motivation is to unleash your anger then you should look at why that is. A child is a child and they’re there to learn. Your motivation should be to teach them.
Today I really put this into practice. For the most part.
When we were in the restaurant having lunch Miss Rose started to get whingey. She wouldn’t sit in her chair, said she didn’t want food, kept wandering around and getting under the wait staff’s feet, and got stroppier and stroppier every time I told her she needed to behave.
I breathed. I took stock of myself. What did I want to do? Did I want to let her know just how frustrated I was, or did I want her to sit down nicely and wait for her lunch?
Obviously it was the latter.
So I gently called her to me and told her I needed a cuddle. I gave her a cuddle then said I was going to take her outside for a minute. I didn’t get angry or shout and she willingly went with me.
We stood outside quietly and I asked what was wrong. She said she missed her daddy and wanted to go home. I told her we’d be going home later but now was time for food. I asked if she knew she was being naughty and she said yes. I asked why she was being naughty. We talked. We talked calmly. She acknowledged what she was doing. She agreed that it was silly and that she wanted her lunch and that she would be good. We had a cuddle again, we shook hands and she promised to behave. We went back in, she sat nicely in her chair, she ate her doughballs.
It was a gentle approach and the kind of parenting I always wanted to do. It’s the kind of parenting I do often manage but without a clear understanding of it I’ve found it far too easy to slip away from it. Recognising that figuring out your motivation before you act is the key has really helped me get back on track. And it’s wielded results.
I know it won’t always be possible not to shout. When she ran off in Birmingham City Centre I shouted my head off as I chased her down. And I had to. She had to hear me. She had to know this was serious. Not just serious but terrifying. But, again, once I’d got her I took her immediately over to wall and knelt down in front of her and I spoke to her. I was shaking and I was upset, and she knew it. She had been screamed at for one thing, and I think me not shouting before made the shouting now more effective. But I spoke to her. I told her clearly that it was dangerous, that she could have been hurt, that running away from me is one of the biggest naughties she could ever do, and that she must never do it again.
Sometimes you have to shout. Sometimes it’s the right thing to do.
And you know what, sometimes you’ll shout even when it’s not the right thing to do. Because children are exhausting. Because children are draining. Because sometimes you’ve used up every ounce of patience you thought you had plus the reserves you summonsed from somewhere. And because sometimes you do not have a chance to check your motivation and figure out the best course of action. Sometimes you just shout because it’s instinctive and you’re angry.
But if you can? If you can, think about it. Steal a couple of seconds to really work out what you want to achieve. Venting anger, or getting what you want.