When it comes to my children and their behaviour at times, I catch myself assuming the worst, instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt (or seeing things for what they really are).
The best way to explain this is with a few examples …
I ask Madilyn to please pick up her blankets and her slippers in the living room. I ask her this WHILE she is deeply engrossed in play. When she doesn’t respond immediately to my request, my brain goes into “freak out” mode, and I assume the worst … she’s ignoring me and she’s being defiant! What a little brat! When I frame her lack of response in this way, I become irritated (and respond accordingly). We would all be better off if I framed her lack of response for WHAT IT IS … she is PLAYING. She is delighted with the work she has just done drawing faces on some round blocks, arranging them at different heights in their holder to be moms, dads, teenagers, kids, and babies. She is simply having fun. In no time at all, she asks, “What did you want me to do, Mom?” I mention the blankets and slippers again, and she happily bounces around the living room, gathering her things and taking them to her bedroom.
Of course, when I go into her bedroom later, her slippers aren’t put away where they belong (her blankets are). Again, I assume the worst and feel irritated. “Oh, this kid, she’s never going to learn to put things back in their rightful spots! How many times have we gone over this?” In my mind, my four-year-old daughter is obviously irresponsible and completely unreliable. How could I have raised such a human??? I want to call her back into her room, point at the slippers, ask her where they belong, and watch her carefully put them in the designated slipper spot. I might not talk to her as nice as I should, and her happy, bubbly spirit may be crushed just a little. The reality of this situation is this … my daughter wants to quickly finish her cleaning job, so she can get back to playing with her new creation. SHE doesn’t care if her blankets or slippers are strewn about on the living room floor …
This is BUT one example of my negative responses to my children’s tendencies. Here are a few more “regulars” …
When I pick up Madilyn from the babysitter’s, she responds with a great big “awe” (like oh-my-gosh how could you be here ALREADY? I am having so much fun with my friends); this tends to be interpreted in my negative brain as disrespect or as complaining … “How could she be such an ungrateful, whiny little brat? She’s lucky she got to come to the park at all. She should be happy!” I tell myself, instead of, again, recognizing her reaction for WHAT IT IS … she’s having fun with her friends and doesn’t want that fun to stop.
Instead of putting her clean clothes away in the proper drawers, my oldest daughter rushes through the task, stuffing things in wherever they fit. I am completely disgusted, again, for raising such an irresponsible and defiant child! How could she? Again, if I look at it for WHAT IT IS … she’s anxious to get the job done, so she can get to the next “fun” thing in her life … we’d all be better off. Meanwhile, I am appalled that I have raised such a slob … someone who simply can’t endure a simple unpleasant task … after all, doing things we don’t like is an important life skill! She needs to learn that … TODAY! How could I have let her get away with this for so long??? My goodness, she’s seven already. I should have been teaching her to do this properly when she was two!
My crazy overreactions make for some “interesting” times around here. While I do hold a lot of it in, I can’t say that I’m “perfect” in this regard. The bottom line is … fear sometimes wins! I am SCARED! I am scared (terrified actually) of raising irresponsible, unreliable, disrespectful, rude, and/or ungrateful children. So anytime anything resembles or suggests any or all of these negative traits or qualities, the little hairs on the back of my neck rise, and I “attack” essentially trying to fight off such sinful traits, even though, many of my kids’ behaviours are NOT actually exhibiting such terrible traits (remember, Madilyn was just playing with her blocks). If I was to just look at certain behaviours for WHAT THEY ARE instead of assuming the worst, there might just be a little more peace around here. Always a work in progress …
“Instead of judging, love.
Instead of criticizing, give grace.
Instead of jealousy, choose joy.
Instead of complaining, show gratitude.
Instead of arrogance, be humble.
Instead of resentment, forgive.
Instead of impatience, seek understanding.
Instead of anger, embrace peace.
Instead of condemning, pray.
Instead of gossip, share success.
Instead of dishonesty, speak truth.
Instead of rejection, invite.”
Lisa Barrickman, A Case for Kindness