I don’t know what I don’t know. I keep learning this lesson over and over.
I love being a mom. However, it often feels like we are walking a tightrope between teaching grace and yet providing discipline, having a sense of humor and teaching respect, deciding when the small ‘stuff’ I actually ‘big’ stuff, and vice versa.
Two years ago we attended a parenting group with Amy. These few things have made a big impact for the way we parent:
•As a working mom, ‘mom guilt’ can occur daily. Amy taught us to give our kids at least 15 minutes of quality time per day. While this seems like a small amount of time, it gets all to easy to be ‘busy’ and miss this opportunity. So, whether I am coloring with the kids, having them help me make dinner, throwing a football with my son or reading books together…. I know it is critical to make the time.
•It is innate to ‘fix’ our babies. If they fall and skin their knee, get a bandaid. If they are hungry, feed them. If they are sad, cheer them up. While I still need to tend to their physical needs, Amy taught me that I don’t need to ‘fix’ their feelings. I need to teach them that I am ok when they are sad, or mad, or hurt. I need to validate what they are feeling. Let them sit in their feelings. I can say “I know you are mad at me because you didn’t get….” And just let them be mad until they want to work it through. I have started to see the fruit of this process now with my 7 year old. Recently, when he has been disrespectful to me, I have shared with him from my perspective, “I don’t like the way you spoke to me. It makes me sad when you talk to in that manner.” And then I am quiet. On his own, he has now gone off, only to come back 30 minutes later and apologize to me. This shows me he is taking time to process how I am feeling. Which means he is taking time to process his feelings.
•In our house, we have a saying “When you mess up, you fess up.” Often as the parent, your instinct is to not show weakness with your kids. But, Amy gave me permission to tell my kids that I am sorry. Or come back to them and explain ‘I didn’t like the way I handled the situation’ today, or ‘I have thought about what I said and I have changed my mind.’ A lot of times we excuse our behavior as parents with the rationale that ‘kids are resilient., or unaffected, or won’t remember.’ As resilient and forgiving as they are, they do remember. I love that we have BOTH Authority in our home AND show humility with our children. My kids are learning that the expectation is not to be perfect, the expectation is to OWN their choices and the consequences. This has to be taught by example.
•When we were on a family vacation, my daughter was coming down an elevator with my sister. The doors shut before my daughter got out. For 45 terrifying seconds, she was hysterical in the elevator alone. She seemed to be ok…just frightened…until about one month later when she wouldn’t let me out of her sight. Cried when I left her at school. Didn’t want to her dance recital or school concert. My natural inclination was to push her through so she (or I) wouldn’t miss out. I was coached to ‘let her heal.’ I needed to build her confidence and trust. Not put her in situations that caused anxiety. Pull back and meet her where she was at. And so we did. I had to keep the normal school and church routines, but soccer, playdates, dance, performances…I had to let them go. It took almost a year for her to fully regain her confidence and not have a ‘spirit of fear.’ But, now she is thriving: dance, playdates, rides the bus to school, skiing. I was so thankful to get guidance during this period, and have a plan to deal with her anxiety.
•Lastly, in working with Amy, you learn you have to stop comparing your parenting to other parents. You as a parent have to discern what is best for your kids. And it is valuable to have someone objective, who can know your parenting style and your issues, and give you the ‘words’ to say to your children. I feel empowered when a challenge comes up, but I have a plan on how to handle it. For example, when my kids: roll their eyes, use inappropriate language, have a disrespectful tone, have power struggles with friends, feel inferior in sports or academics, etc. I am equipped with ‘words’ and actions to handle these things. I can validate their feelings, discern if I need to step in or hold back, and be available to talk through the next step or consequences.