The social media culture we are living in right now shows only small snaps of people’s “perfect lives”. I feel as if everyone forgets it’s not actually real life. Mommy (and daddy) shaming is spread heavily all around us. If you are like me, you let this penetrate your mind and you live each day trying to protect your sense of “being good enough” for your kids. Anytime they do something that doesn’t fit into that perfect little kid mold, we feel like it’s a reflection of who we are as parents, afraid of what might happen should someone find out our life isn’t as perfect as what is posted on social media! I have a WILD IMAGINATION when it comes to what people think about me and what reaction will come. Maybe it’s the result of all that middle and high school drama.
I mean, right?
Remember those years when you thought someone was your friend and had your back, but then all of a sudden you find out they have been making fun of you behind your back or maybe you overheard a conversation about you in the bathroom. I often joke with one of my close friends about telling me if I start o being “too much”. I don’t want her and her husband to look at each other and say “OH CRAP! Here she comes!”
But the point is, sometimes I think we make decisions as parents and react the wrong way. Our kids are just kids and isn’t it possible we set them up for failure a lot of the time? Wouldn’t it be the smartest thing to set them up for success, making sure we are always in “teaching mode”? If we are aware of this idea then everyday-activities and situations become positive learning experiences.
- STOP AND THINK-Before you react to something out of frustration stop and think. Am I punishing them for being a kid or for being naughty? There is a big difference in how you should handle each of these behaviors. If the behavior is out of disobedience, then a correction is needed to teach what the safe or right choice might be. If they are just being a kid, step back and take it with a grain of salt. Remember kids are still figuring things out; they need to see cause and effect in situations to be able to learn how to react. Example; My kids LOVE to blow bubbles in their milk. So a few weeks ago my son started blowing bubbles in his milk while we were out to dinner. As parents we cringe at this. It’s annoying to others, it is messy when it spills, and it is just plain old “not good manners”. But is this really being naughty? It isn’t when they are learning cause and effect. A good way to handle this is not by yelling or being stern. Saying ”That really isn’t good manners to do that in our milk, but I have an idea! When we get home lets try it in the bath water.” Get them a straw and let them go to town.
- CONSIDER THE ENVIRONMENT- Is there any chance your child is in an environment where they feel insecure or unsafe? I am not the “give them an excuse” type of parent. However, if I know I am somewhere my child feels unsafe then I will react differently to their behavior. I will not publicly correct it, but will either pull them aside or kneel down eye to eye and talk quietly to them. Often times I feel as if people think my kids are not disciplined because I will not publicly humiliate them. My concern is not what others think, but to take care of them in that situation. Some kids do not handle busy stores or big parties very well. They will either act out or become emotional. Some of these environments can’t be avoided so just do your best to make your child feel safe. Have discussions with them about what to do if they start to feel insecure and what the appropriate behavior would be. After all, our job as parents is to make sure we teach our kids how to recognize and to react to their emotions appropriately. In life they will not be able to avoid certain situations all of the time. Do your best to teach them to handle it in a positive way. There is NO NEED to explain to everyone around you why your child is acting out. Chances are if they are judging you, it has more to do with their insecurities and less with you. Example; A few weeks ago I had a girl in one of my cheer classes and I could tell she was feeling uncomfortable. She seemed very overwhelmed. She raised her hand and said “I am feeling very nervous”. I was surprised at the emotional maturity this 6 year old girl just displayed. My response was to ask her if she would like to sit out and watch for a minute or come stretch by me? Her face lit up and she said she would like to sit and watch for a minute. A few minutes went by and she moved back into her spot and was fine the rest of the time. As adults, parents and teachers we need to realize it’s our responsibility to stop what we are doing and answer the needs of the little ones around us. If you listen and watch, they will show you what they need by their actions or words. It is not normal for a child to have the emotional maturity to be able tell us like this little girl did. But if you watch and see a little one acting out, try to see what the need is that’s not being met. Sometimes, yes, they are just being naughty, and in that case use whatever correction you as a parent use. (That’s a whole other blog!)
- LEARN TO SAY NO! If you are invited to something that is setting you or your child up to fail, learn to say NO! Example; My dad lives in Alaska and we only see him a couple times a year. When he is here visiting, my family likes to do as much in one week as possible. My dad misses home when he is away, so when he comes home he likes to do as many “Michigan experiences” as possible. We head to the dunes and climb, we go to all the scenic outlooks at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Forrest, and we like to go downtown and look through stores. We also go to Mackinac Island or museums. A couple years ago when he was home, I had just had my fourth baby, and was only 10 days out from having my fourth c-section. I had three older children trying to adjust to another sibling being added to our family. I also had another child who was trying to adjust to not being the baby any longer. SO every adventure out would be a struggle emotionally and physically for me. The kids were all acting out a little, all wanting extra attention and thinking they could get away with stuff they normally wouldn’t because my husband and I were obviously distracted. On that day everywhere we went I felt as if my kids were being judged for being naughty and out of control. I felt as if I was being judged for having too many kids and maybe I could not handle them. No one said that directly to me, but it was how I perceived it to be because of my own insecurities. I always felt as if I had to be included in everything, that by saying “no” meant I couldn’t handle my family or I wasn’t strong enough physically (which after your fourth c-section who would be strong enough?). Finally I decided I needed to make some changes in order to help my kids respond correctly in certain situations. When making plans to accept an invitation, I would consider these things;
A. Can I control my emotions in that environment?
B .Can my kids control their emotions and bodies?
After answering these questions, when we were asked to go to the Dunes, I said ABSOLUTELY. That was a great thing for them to do, they can run, be loud, and best of all have room to be wild if they wanted. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do the annual climb, but I could sit at the bottom and watch and cheer everyone on. (However, I did actually climb it with my dad! How Bad ASS is that?) The next day the invitation I received was that everyone was going to go to the next town over (which was a must every time dad was home) and walk downtown. My family likes to look through the stores, sit and people watch and it ALWAYS ends with ice cream. And as much as I love this tradition I had to say, NO. I will pass on today’s activities. There was no way having four kids (one being a new born) we would be able to live up to all the expectations in that environment. It would be a day of constantly correcting and redirecting behavior. My husband and I would both be cross and exhausted by the end of the day. DEFINITELY NOT A GOOD FIT! Make sure you are setting your kids up to succeed, and that YOU CHOOSE an environment where you can be alongside your child, teaching them the correct behavior for that particular situation.
- REDIRECT; The number one way to diffuse a toddler or child is to redirect them to a situation that will set them up to make an age-appropriate decision. Listen, I mean this really is the best way to defuse any situation. If your child is in a place where they can make good choices and see that it bounces back with good reactions from you or their social situations, they will be more likely to crave that feeling of success. Being put in a situation where they make a poor choice, the negative reaction will make them remember the good feeling of success from the good decision.
- GIVE YOURSELF GRACE; We can’t always be “on”. We will make mistakes, we will over react to things that really are not that big of a deal. Let it go and remember there is no perfect parent. If someone is claiming to be perfect, they are likely just projecting their insecurities on others. It is ok to “reset” your own emotions by going in another room and taking a deep breath. Arrange a play date to be able to vent with another mommy, pour a glass of wine, or just get away for a little while. Everyone needs a break from time to time. And it is ok to admit it. I think that in the present culture, we all try to pretend we have it all together when really we are all just one decision away from breaking into tears. You must be happy and healthy to be able to take care of the people around you.
- SET UP YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM; Surround yourself with strong women who empower you. There is nothing better than having a pack of women who unconditionally support you. Find (or form) a group of moms to have a mom’s night out, or set up play dates with like-minded moms. Have you ever heard the expression “hot coals burn hot coals”? It’s true! Show me your friends and I will show you your future (I’ve heard this from a close friend for years). If you are a dude reading this, you can see the same thing! Don’t surround yourself with men who are single and/or out on the prowl. Hang around successful, like-minded dads and husbands.
- SPEAK TO KIDS DIRECTLY; Often times we are so over stretched and tired we are not able to properly react. But we have kids and it is a must to make sure we realize that they have LITTLE CONTROL over what we do as adults. They did not choose to be over booked and they didn’t choose to be given a poor diet or to be placed in an environment that is over stimulating to them. We MUST remember we are the ones who are responsible. If kids are doing something that needs attention get up and respond. If you yell from across the room they are not going to be learning anything from you. It’s too easy for them to ignore you or over react to the situation.
- LET THEM BE LITTLE; This is probably the most important tip of all. Let your kids be little kids. Let them play, get dirty, and for the love of God let them make mistakes without over reacting. Remember they only get one childhood, and everything we exposed them to will shape them. That idea is incredibly empowering and terrifying all at the same time.
Always remember to stay consistent even when you do not see progress right away. You are planting seeds within your child. Some seeds (lessons) take longer to grow roots. Some positive results you may see right away. One of my favorite quotes is “Be careful what you say to your children, for one day your words will become their inner voice.” I have no idea who said that, but if you know tell me. I want to shake the hand of that genius! I’d like to post those words all over my house, basing my entire parenting strategies around them. Let your kids be kids, and remember both parent and child will make mistakes. There will be bad days of course, like losing control of emotions for no other reason than they are just being little.