The other day I had one of those out of body moments. It was as if I had stepped outside of myself and as I listened to the words come out of my mouth and saw my reaction to the actions of my children, it broke my heart. Have you had one of those moments before?
Here is the scene. We are late. I have repeatedly asked encouraged my youngest to get a move on and he's moving on...at his own pace. It started with wanting one thing for breakfast and then changing his mind. It moved on to being sad and refusing to eat because he was told he needed to eat what he asked for first. The morning progressed with the more exciting adventure of jumping naked on the bed rather than putting his clothes on. We had just finished a 10 minute battle of putting socks and shoes on... Really! Socks and shoes should take 2 minutes tops...and finally made it to the car. However finding the right toy is a lot more interesting than putting the seatbelt on and now we are late and my patience is gone! In my frustration I started driving before he was buckled in and when he yelled, "Mama, I'm not strapped in" I stomped on the brakes and yelled, "I know! I've asked you to buckle up and YOUR NOT LISTENING!!" The car went quiet and the look in both my boys eyes broke my heart.
It was easy to justify my frustration, yelling, and brake slamming. I had been patiently trying to motivate my youngest all morning with little success. And during the very quiet ride to school I attempted to justify my actions. I want my child to be successful at getting himself ready in the morning and respectful of other people's needs and time. But that voice deep inside quietly reminded me that brake slamming and yelling are not great tools for helping him get there.
Author Emmerson Eggerich teaches that relationships are built on a cycle of love and respect. His popular book "Love and Respect" teaches that in the marriage relationship, the woman wants to be loved and the husband respected and when love or respect is not communicated it throws us into a crazy cycle. His new book "Love and Respect in the Family" shows a similar cycle between parents and children. Children want to be loved and parents want to be respected. So much of parenting is communication. Yesterday I listened to a teaching by Emmerson Eggerich on his new book. I took away many great thoughts and truths about communicating with my children but one of the biggest "ah-ha" moments I had was when my children are acting disrespectfully, is there probably something I am doing or saying that they may interpret as unloving. The key word in that sentence being interpret. I love my children deeply and most of my choices and reactions are based out of this love for them. However, they don't always know that because of what I do or say.
Let's go back to my brake slamming-yelling mommy moment. My youngest was feeling unloved from the moment he woke-up. His deepest joy in life is play and I was waking him up too late in the morning to give him time to play. Later that day, I went to each of my boys and apologized. It is humbling as a parent to admit you are wrong but so powerful in building healthy relationships with our children. Together we decided to try using the music setting on an alarm clock to begin waking both boys up earlier in the morning. This extra time to play has been the ticket to a happier morning in our house. The sock and shoe battles still happen but not every morning. And he still changes his mind about what he wants to eat sometimes, but by understanding his need to play I have been able to communicate love to him and in return he has been showing respect by getting himself ready with time to play!
Questions I find myself asking lately...
"How are my actions commenting love and are they being received the way I intend them to be?"
If my answer is no, then "what can I do to better communicate my deep and unconditional love for my kids?"