Welcome to our first Parenting Tip of the Week. Today we're going to explore respect. We all know that respect works both ways but sometimes we forget that applies to our little ones too.
Parenting Tip - Mutual Respect
As parents, we naturally expect respect from our children, but can sometimes be guilty of not reciprocating that well-deserved respect. Our kids absolutely deserve our respect and the same thought and care we would give to other family members, or our best friend in the same situation.
Like adults, kids too, have good days and bad days. They can wake up on the wrong side of the bed for no identifiable reason or just want/need to be left alone to recharge their batteries. Other times they don’t want to eat the chicken dinner we lovingly prepared for them which they usually adore. It's easy in those moments for us to assume the worst (they're trying to annoy us) or to react badly (we're tired, we're fed up, we're busy, we're stressed). Instead, take a minute, inhale and exhale slowly and remember to show them the courtesy and respect that they deserve. Respect for how they may be feeling and understanding of why they did what they did,
How would you feel, if someone kept telling you to “eat more, just a little more” when you were feeling full? Or at the end of a rough day, your neighbor kept trying to talk to you, when all you wanted was to take a relaxing bubble bath and read a book (ha, unlikely with young kids but we can dream)?
As parents, we need to appreciate where our kids are coming from, that their stress levels are different to ours, that they don't yet know how to control their tempers or put on a "happy face." We need to put ourselves in their cute little shoes, even when they're having a temper tantrum in middle of the grocery store and we just want to curl up and die :-). This may seem hard to do in the moment, but changing your response and reaction can have a hugely positive impact on the outcome. Imagine how quickly your attitude would adjust if you were dealing with your great aunt, or your boss or your best friend? No matter how cranky you were feeling, you would summon the patience to figure out the cause, react calmly and offer help and support.
To teach and support your child, you need to show compassion even if you don’t understand what the fuss is about. When your children are young, they are still learning to handle their emotions and to process their thoughts. They don’t always understand the reason they are upset or angry, and it is your job as a parent to give them the space they need to channel these emotions and to try to determine the underlying cause so that you can help them navigate their way out their mood/situation.
As an example, the meltdown because the dress they wanted to wear is still in the wash, may be more about not having enough time to finish their Barbie house and get ready than it is about the dress itself. The tantrum in the store, might be less about the toy you wouldn’t buy them, and more about the fact that the noise or sounds or smells are overwhelming them, or that they’re tired and just want some quiet time at home. Sara might just be throwing her peas on your newly mopped floor because she is just not hungry today and doesn’t know how to communicate that. Jacob be able to focus better schoolwork if you sat in the chair near him, as your presence helps comfort or ground him.
Respecting your child, validating their feelings and showing them patience and compassion will enable you to help them cope better in these situations. A gentle worded “let’s just take a few minutes to calm down” or “can I give you a hug?” goes a lot better than an angry rebuke.
Would a few extra hugs help? Maybe some quiet lap time with mommy could bring them back to their happy place? And don't forget, siblings are not necessarily alike. What resonates with one, might not be the best approach for the other. Meet your child in the moment and respect who they are now, and not what they can become or what/who you would like them to be.
Check back next week for our second Parenting Tip Of the Week on Offering The Right Choices!