This question, as it came to me in a parenting moment one day, impacted me so greatly, I don’t think it — or my relationship with my kids — will ever be the same.
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Have you ever had one of those head-hanging humbling parenting moments when you say something to your kid that, when you hear it said out loud, slaps you right upside the face?
One of those moments of teaching, training, or discipline that all-too-clearly reveal some stark and ugly truths about yourself?
I had one of those moments several weeks ago, and it was a wake-up call I needed.
MY PARENTING WAKE-UP CALL
My oldest son, Aidan, has gotten rather impatient with his little brother in recent weeks. (In his defense, said little brother is at prime patience-testing age.) And he was constantly saying, “We know, Andrew, we know,” in exasperated tones when his 2-year-old brother would repeat himself (or us).
Tired of his snotty and unkind attitude, I finally said one day, “Aidan, how would you feel if, when you were telling me your animal facts, I said, ‘I know, Aidan, I know.”
“I would feel sad,” he said.
“Right. And do you want to make Andrew feel that way?”
“No,” he said.
Pretty pleased with how I handled the situation, I walked away. Problem solved.
Not an hour later, while reading a book (for the hundredth time), Aidan pointed out something we had discussed in nearly every. single. read.
Mentally exhausted and anxious to move on to other things, I (rather shortly) said, “Yes, Aidan, I know. We go over this every time.”
And as soon as the words were out of my mouth, our earlier conversation came flying back to me.
(And I wondered where he had picked up that impatience??)
I asked myself the same question I had asked him: “How would I feel if someone responded to me that way?”
When I’m talking to Levon, for example, about something that excites me (the way Aidan is passionate about his animal facts), how would I feel if he said, “Yes, Lisa, I know. You’ve told me this a hundred times already”?
In the simple words of Aidan, I would feel sad.
HOW WOULD I FEEL?
I started thinking about some of the other ways I respond to my kids, putting myself in their shoes.
How would I feel if someone grumbled every time I asked them for a favor or for help?
How would I feel if someone told me to quit crying when I was upset?
How would I feel if someone responded to my passionate stories with disinterest or, worse yet, annoyance?
How would I feel if someone I loved spending time with was always too busy to spend time with me?
How would I feel if someone heaved as many sighs at me as I have toward my kids?
How would I feel?
I could easily answer those hypothetical questions, and it wasn’t pretty.
Other questions were even easier to answer:
How does it make me feel when people vent their anger at me, even (especially) when I’m not the cause?
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How do I feel when I am berated for an honest mistake? Or lack of knowledge? Or for failing?
How does it feel to be yelled at? To be the object of another’s frustrations and impatience? To feel you are constantly missing the mark of someone’s expectations?
How does it feel?
It feels lousy.
So why, why mommas, am I treating my kids that way? Oh, the truth of this revelation broke my heart.
KIDS ARE PEOPLE, TOO
For some reason, it’s easy to forget that our kids are actual living, breathing, feeling human beings. Especially (though I’m totally guessing) when they’re little.
Is it because we see them too much as a project to conquer? Is it the societal pressure — as I often feel — to “control our children”? Is it a preoccupation with our own tasks and endeavors, fueled by a desire to “do it all”?
Whatever the reason, I’m ashamed to admit how often I fail to treat them with empathy. To put myself in their shoes and strive to understand before I respond.
To treat them how I would want to be treated.
You know… that Golden Rule we’re all so quick to quote to our kids.
How often am I extending them the same courtesy?
I CAN’T BE PERFECT… BUT I CAN DO BETTER
Now, I realize that none of us is perfect, and we can’t expect to be.
Things are said, tempers get short, and unkind responses flow out of weary hearts and bodies. Condemning ourselves isn’t going to help anyone.
But hearing my own words through my parenting lens that day brought a revelation of the power of my words and attitudes and the example I was setting of kindness and respect.
And I vowed to do better.
Starting at that moment, as I’ve been tempted to vent, to berate, to sigh, to yell, to snap, to roll my eyes, to disrespect, to use sarcasm, to insult, to name-call, to be harsh, to speak unkindly, to respond with impatience…
I ask myself:
“What if someone treated me this way?”
And that question has changed my parenting forever.
More on Parenting:
- 6 Soul-Searching Questions That Will Make You a More Intentional Mother
- Why I Won’t Call My Children Names
- Why Do I Discipline? A Hard Look at My Motives
- Two Must-Read Books for Purposeful Parenting