It’s really easy to get frustrated with kids. They scream, yell, don’t eat their food, don’t put away toys, don’t listen when you talk, talk back, etc. They’re adorable tiny blessings, but they’re also monsters. It’s tempting to let that behavior turn us into bigger monsters to scare them into submission. Sometimes circumstances conspire to make us give into that temptation. I’ve found myself snapping and shouting more than my fair share. But after the shouting is done, I always feel bad for having done it, and usually the kid in question hasn’t stopped the behavior that prompted the shouting in the first place.
I want to try harder to intentionally center kindness and gentleness in my parenting. That starts by curtailing the shouting, which is harder than it feels like it should be. I’ve tried to realize two things:
- Shouting doesn’t work.
- Shouting isn’t for them; it’s for me.
It’s especially tempting to shout when the kids aren’t listening. I think to myself, well, they’re not listening when I’m speaking normally, so maybe I have to just get louder. But that’s a rationalization. Getting louder is just giving voice to my frustration at not being heard. In doing that, I’m just being a child myself. If I can look at their misbehavior and try to understand where it’s coming from (maybe, hint hint, sometimes it’s coming from frustration at not being heard), then I can better devise a kind, compassionate strategy for dealing with it. Plus, if I shout more often than I should, it blunts the impact of those times when I really should be shouting, like when one of the kids might hurt themselves or each other.
Shouting isn’t easy to fix, but it’s probably the behavior that’s easiest to fix. There are other, more subtle behaviors that I need to work on in being a kind and compassionate parent. Things like being annoyed or dismissive at a request. Kids can be silly, but they can also pick up on social cues. If I’m rolling my eyes at something they say, they can see that. I want to work on getting eye-rolling out of my repertoire entirely. There’s also half-listening, which is something I do more often than I should. There are times when it’s inevitable, like in the car, at the store, etc. But if I’m with them, I should be with them. When they want my attention, I should strive to give it to them, whole and undivided.
This is a work in progress. I have a lot to do to become more the parent I’d like to be. For now I think I’m doing a pretty good job, but there’s room for improvement. I want my kids to grow up to be kind and caring, and the best way for me to do that is with my example.