Here are three ways you can immediately apply from the earliest stages of your parenting
(or grandparenting) journey.
Learning from our Israeli Friends
Not long ago, we sat around our dinner table with a young couple from Israel. They’ve been together for about four years, married for two. They are finishing up an 18-month study abroad season in the U.S. and on the verge of returning home.
The wife, Aliza, expresses her desire to have a baby.
Tal, her husband, is not quite ready.
As we dive deeper, we discover Aliza grew up in a family of five, and she was the baby. But the spread in her family was large. “I became auntie at 11 years old, so I had little ones around me all the time,” she shares.
Tal is an oldest child of three. They were all rather close in age and, although he got the benefits of being “big brother,” he didn’t experience his siblings as little ones. Or, at least, to his memory.
But as we shared about our own emerging adult children, the two of them paid attention. And they asked us the question we seem to hear a thousand times, “How did you do it? Tell us!”
There’s No Magic Sauce
Honestly, no one has the exclusive magic sauce for parenting. This is because, of course, every child – and every situation – is unique. Parenting is not “one-size-fits-all.” It’s a very boutique process.
That said, we believe there are some principles parents can follow to give their kids the best possibility of succeeding.
These principles would fill a book, of course. (And that will likely come.) But the (very) abbreviated version, below, may get you thinking.
1 | Talk with your children from the earliest stages, as if they were adults.
Let me clarify here. No, you should not talk with them using complex words or expressions. Simplicity is gold. Rather, what I mean here is don’t talk down to them. Ever.
Yes, you can be instructive. But don’t use that voice. If you are a parent, you know what I mean. It’s the voice emanating from the “know-it-all” parent to his/her charge. It sounds belittling (and it is). It establishes hierarchy, yes. But it also can establish fear and resentment in the young child’s heart.
Think back to your own childhood. Did you hear that voice? If you didn’t, then you probably are a very healthy, functioning adult. You should be writing brilliant parenting books! But I know I heard it many times. And yes, it produced resentment in me. (I’m way over it now, but it stuck with me into early adulthood.)
2 | When your children are really little, get down on their level as much as possible.
At first glance, this may seem to contradict the first principle. But it doesn’t. Here’s why.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself going into work and there’s your boss hovering a few feet over you harboring an attitude. Wouldn’t that be intimidating? Not only that, but wouldn’t it put a distance between you?
Little ones experience that. And sometimes, it’s a good thing. True, they need to know who’s the adult in the room, who’s in charge. But whenever possible, get down on their level and speak with a kind, engaging voice. Children respond so well to that. They feel legitimatized. It helps develop their self-confidence.
3 | Make sure you’ve developed ways to control your anger.
You should always be the calm one.
Okay, maybe 99% of the time. If you get rattled, it should be for something really big. Something they’ll remember and they’ll seek to change.
If parents are an emotional roller coaster, particularly when it comes to rage, it really impacts and messes up their kids. Few children make it through such an upbringing with a healthy understanding of his/her own worth. If this was your own experience, I suspect you agree with me on this.
No, you do not need to become that way to your kids. Yes you can break the cycle. And yes, there can be healing. Counseling and therapy often is a part of that. So is spiritual discovery and growth. A wanting of something more stable for your own life.
A Personal Experience Early in My Parenting Years Changed Me
I had an incident when my oldest was about 1 ½ years old. I got really angry with him for something which, I'm sure now, was pretty stupid. Without thinking (and this is the issue), I lashed out at him and hit/spanked him. He was shocked and much wailing ensued.
Ironically, just days earlier I had read an article written by a young mom who had done the same thing. She offered suggestions on how to change. After this incident, I went back to that article, reread it and vowed to put her suggestions into practice.
I can’t remember all the ideas of that 20+ year-old article (nor could I track it down online, unfortunately), but the most valuable ideas were these:
(a) Think before you strike;
(b) Remember, they really are only little ones, learning to figure out what’s right and wrong; and
(c) Find a way to deal with your anger away from the children when it arises.
For me, to deal with my anger, I usually would step out of the room, often into a bathroom, and letting out my anger there, fist punching the air or something. Then I’d pray. And breathe. Calm down. Even if the child (or others) are crying at the door, I’d go through this process until I could emerge as a peaceful adult.
Over time, I no longer needed to do this because (a) and (b) became more natural to me.
While there are many more principles I could list, these three stand out the most. And that’s what I told our Israeli friends. So I share that with you, too. We didn’t do these perfectly, but we learned how to do them well. And, over time, doing this paid off.
Our kids are on their way!
Do you struggle with anger towards your kids (or others) in your life?
If so, how are you dealing with it?
Image credit: Stencil
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