Call it sassiness, adolescence, or plain old Back to School backtalk, but my 8 year old is suffering from it. And this means that our whole household is suffering from it. Last night was a prime example. We’ve been working on implementing the rules for a successful back to school schedule: packing up the backpack the night before, preparing most of the lunches, and being dressed for bed before bedtime so that a little bit of downtime is allowed. But each direction I gave was met with a complaint, a whine, a cry, or a “You’ve got to be kidding me!” The last straw was when he had to get a lunchbag down to put his lunch in. Upon trying to reach the top shelf and failing, he uttered, “Are you trying to humiliate me?!?”
He claimed I didn’t care about him. To that I told him that I felt he didn’t care about me. It all went downhill from there. Argument after argument ensued until finally it was all done. By the time it was finished, it was bedtime. There would be no time for downtime. And he had a fit over it. I was exhausted, he was angry, it was all a bad combination. I put both kids to bed with a hug and kiss, though it wasn’t as endearing as usual. Upon closing the door, he called out, “I love you!” I said it back, and went back downstairs with feelings of guilt over how the night had played out.
The best way to guide a child is with love. Not with yelling, not with frustration, not with anything but love. They respond to it, things go more smoothly, and real lessons are taught that they soak up and remember. A hug telling them that you understand how hard things are with so many new responsibilities. Helping them when they get so overwhelmed they can’t see straight. Encouragement that they can accomplish anything. Telling them how proud you are of them when they succeed.
I got caught up in the moment. I did not do any of that. I was so frustrated I couldn’t get past the stress I was feeling over the frustration of the night. I failed to stop and think about the stress my 8 year old son was feeling, and how he really could have used an encouraging word. As the adult, it was much easier for me to turn the situation around than it was for him.
In times of stress, stop and take a deep breath. Pause before you say anything. Ask yourself, what am I teaching my child with this behavior. And then implement the kind of behavior you want mirrored back to you. Yelling never creates peace. As parents, it is our job to control the environment in our households. It’s not easy, it never is. And as humans, we’ll slip up time and again. But if we work at it, we can create more peaceful households, which can have the potential to create a more peaceful world.