I didn’t really give much thought to my parenting philosophy until my oldest daughter was about 3. She was stubborn, and hated to be “controlled” which just made me want to try even harder to control her. It was power struggle city. Over ev.ry.thing. Getting her in the carseat, diaper changes, getting dressed, not acting like a lunatic at the store. It was non-stop. Which is one of the reasons it took forever for her to be potty trained. Try as you might, you cannot force a child to pee. And when you’re at that “butting heads” point, everything is a fight. Your child is trying to win. You’re trying to show him who’s boss. No one wins. And its miserable for everyone.
After finding Dr Laura Markham, my world changed. I read this post, and about 100 others. I had a new plan (I love plans). We were going to be on the same team. No more Mom vs Child. It would be Mom & Child working together to have a happy home. It took some serious patience. I mean SERIOUS PATIENCE. And empathy. Ohhhh the empathy! But it worked. After awhile, I was more patient, and she was more calm. I was happier. She was happier. We were working together.
Since then, our relationship has naturally ebbed and flowed. Sometimes she is charming and sweet, and other times she is irritating and dramatic.
And guess what I learned (this will blow your mind):
She was irritating, because I was irritated with her.
Do you see what I’m saying? My attitude about her determined her behavior. By changing my attitude towards her, her attitude towards me changed as well. It works both ways. The more loving I am toward her, the more loving she is toward me. The more bossy I get, the more difficult she gets.
As parents, when we’re in that “funk” with our kids, when they’re not listening, disobedient, acting out, we want to DEMAND that they change their behavior. But they’re still little, and its expecting A LOT to ask them to change first, so that you will like them better.
You’ve got to like them better first, and then they will change.
Let that sink in…
How To Like Your Kids Again
When I get to that point when I realize that my kids are irritating me, and I know I need to flip things around, there are a handful of things that I’ve learned really help me soften my heart toward them.
1. Write a list of 3 things you like about your child.
Don’t just think them, write them down. And do it daily, or twice a day. As much as it takes to help you focus on their good qualities again.
2. Cut back on how busy you are.
I’ve realized that when I’m stressed, it affects the whole family. My kids feel particularly annoying when I’m trying to get a project finished. I love that quote from Thomas S Monson, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” Your kids are more important that whatever you’re doing. So close the computer, put down the project, turn off your phone, take off your running shoes, put down the laundry. Leave it for another day.
3. Have quiet snuggle time.
Sometimes the last thing I want is someone hanging on me, especially if I’m irritated with them. But if I can take a deep breath and realize just how much my child wants me to love on her, it helps me want to be affectionate. If they’re young enough, hold them on your lap. Rock them. Play with their hair. Sing to them. Read to them. Take a deep breath and really be “in the moment.”
4. Do something fun together.
This one has an almost immediate effect on kids. Take them somewhere special. The park, the zoo, an ice cream shop, the pool, a train ride, go on an adventure. Adventures promote bonding. Put on your happy face and let yourself enjoy it.
5. Let your problem child be king/queen for a day.
My friend Jennie is a fantastic mother. The last week before school started, each day, she let one of her children be “king/queen for a day” complete with a handmade crown. The child got to choose the day’s activities and meals. One picked a museum and 3D movie, another chose apple picking and a petting zoo. I can only imagine the happiness and love that her children felt while falling asleep after their big day of being King.
6. Look back at pictures from when they were younger.
I try to do this one often, usually at night after the kids are asleep. It does wonders to soften my heart, and realize just how quickly time is passing. I especially like to look at pictures from when they were newborns and reflect on their special births. Most of the pictures we have are smiling faces and happy memories. Things that make me smile and remember just how much I love them.
7. Observe your child doing something he/she is good at.
Recently, I was in a funk with my oldest daughter. Summer was winding down, I was kind of stressed, and we were bored. I hadn’t really realized we were in a funk, or decided to do anything about fixing it, until I took her to her first ballet class. I stayed to watch her and was almost overwhelmed with pride as I watched her lean little pink body stretch and glide around the studio. She would occasionally give me a little wave, loving the huge smile on my face. I felt my attitude toward her change, and the next few days continued to improve.
8. When you talk to them, look deep in their eyes and mentally say “I love you.”
So this one might sound weird, but I had a roommate in college that swore that when she was talking to a boy, if she mentally said “ask me out” while she was talking to them, that they almost always did ask her out on a date. She was a cute girl, so that helped. But I know that there is truth to it. She now uses that technique with each of her 6 kids, mentally saying “I love you” while she is listening to them talk to her. Mentally saying it softens your features and adds an intensity that your child really can feel.
There have been times that I’ve done it, and my girls will pipe up out of the blue, “Mom, I just love you!” or give me a hug. All without me saying a word. We (hopefully) tell our children “I love you” verbally throughout the day. But do they really FEEL it?
9. Verbally commit to your child to be happier.
I’m sure your child realizes that you’re frustrated with them. Sit down with them at a quiet moment (like when you’re tucking them into bed), and tell them you’re sorry that you’ve been grumpy and that you’re trying to do better. Ask them if they want you to be a happy mom. Ask them if they want to be happy too. And make a promise to each other to try harder to be more patient and nice to each other.
I hope those give you some ideas to try. One last thing that helps me feel motivated to do better as a mother, is to ask myself:
If someone asked my kids right now, if their mom is a happy mom or a grumpy mom, what would they say?
When my kids look back at their childhood, what will they remember?
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Liked this post? Check out a few of my other parenting posts:
Keeping toddlers busy (without destroying your house)
Potty training: get it done quicker with less messes
How to encourage kids to eat
How to help babies sleep