Thursday, August 15, 2013

Responding to Our Kids

I am definitely no parent of the year.  The kids may see a calm, patient Mama during the day but sometimes after I tuck them in this is the Juliana my husband sees.

And I definitely need a little of this sometimes to get me through the end of a long day.

I wanted to preface my post with that so you don't think I am passing on parenting tips as if I am some perfect mom, because I am most certainly not.  But I have learned a successful parenting strategy I wanted to share with y'all.  Have I had this theory approved by a child psychologist?  No.  Have I tested this on any children other than my own?  No.  But I have two boys with two completely different personalities and so far this theory has proven true.

We respond to our kids in many ways.  If they fall down and get hurt we might emotionally respond to them by nurturing them.  If they are sick or in pain we might spiritually respond to them by praying over them.  The kind of response I want to talk about is the verbal response. 

When our kids do something positive we should respond verbally in a positive manner.  This is hard for me because my seven year old, Garrison, really is a great kid.  I have pretty high expectations for him because I rarely have to get on to him.  And I have to remind myself that when he does something great I should respond to that in a positive way.  I shouldn't take it for granted that he steers his brother away from trouble if I am in the middle of cooking dinner or that he feeds the dogs without me asking or that he runs up to give me a hug "just because" he loves me.  I need to remember to respond verbally to him in a positive way.  Just a simple, "Thanks bubba.  You are SO sweet!" can mean the world to a seven year old.

My 19 month old, Ethan, is a little more hard headed than his big brother.  I have learned that positive verbal responses are extremely important to him because it is constantly teaching him what good behavior is.  When he lays his head down on my shoulder to give me a "hug" I always make sure to tell him how sweet he is and how much I love him.  When he pets the dogs sweetly or brings me something he knows he's not supposed to play with I have to remember to tell him what a good boy he is being.  

On the flip side, with Ethan, I have found the that the best verbal response to negative behavior is no response at all.  If Ethan throws a tantrum (which thank goodness is rare these days) I let him throw himself on the ground, step right over him and move on to something else.  Let me tell you, it works!  It worked with Garrison and it works with Ethan.  If he is trying to get my attention by doing something negative like trying to hit me or yelling "no" over and over I set him down and walk away.  Of course I am a huge advocate of time out and there are times where that is necessary - like if I tell him not to do something and he does it anyways.  But for the most part I have found that ignoring bad behavior is very successful.

This doesn't work as well when they get older.  If Garrison gets in trouble I don't ignore him.  But I do ignore him when he asks me for something over and over or if he starts using that ever so annoying whiny voice.  But I have set those expectations for him.  I have made it clear that I won't listen to him or talk to him when he acts like that.

If I do have to verbally reprimand Garrison I try to remember to take  a few deep breaths before I get on to him.  Yelling at him will not make him understand more clearly what he did wrong.  Cursing at him will definitely not make him understand.  Leading by example and talking to him in a calm but firm voice will hopefully teach him self control, patience and discipline.  If I yell at him he is going to yell right back and learn that this is the way to deal with conflict.  Our kids definitely hear the words we say but more importantly they pick up on the tone of our voice.  I would rather be able to give Garrison a quiet look across the room to get him to behave than have to yell at him in Wal Mart to get his attention - not that this would be unacceptable in that setting. ;) 

Trust me.  I know that it can be REALLY hard to have patience but after becoming a mom that has been my almost daily prayer.  Lord, please help me to be patient today.  Help me to love them like you love me. 

When I take a step back and look at these beautiful miracles God has entrusted me with it makes me want to wake up every morning putting my all into them, giving them patience, discipline and unconditional love.  Again and again.  Because that's what God does for me!


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