Friday, May 7, 2010

Mothering Differently

About a month ago, I knelt in the chapel between morning prayer and mass, and prayed for my oldest child. He and I were having a hard time getting along. His behavior over the previous few months was increasingly disrespectful, rude, even hurtful toward me, his siblings, and his dad.

My responses weren't much better. So, I prayed for myself, too. I prayed that I might find a way to discipline him with more love and less frustration.

A short time later, a thought entered my head. This thought so countered my own "logic" that I know it was not from me.

When your child is at his least lovable, that's when he needs to feel your love most strongly.

I sat in the chapel, pondering this revelation. Really? I'm supposed to love him more when he's being impossible? How?

It didn't take long for me to find an opportunity. Later that afternoon, I asked BigBro to empty the kitchen trash. He began to whine and complain. I repeated my request. He ramped up, getting disrespectful. My head said, "Send him to his room until he calms down and is able to be respectful." I ignored my head.

Instead, I reached out, put my arms around my son, and pulled him into an embrace. I kissed the top of his head. I told him that I loved him very much.

And then I told him that his disrespectful behavior was hurting me.

I continued to hold him. We stood in the kitchen for several minutes, arms wrapped tightly around each other.

"I love you. You are precious to me." I kept murmuring to him. "Your disrespect hurts me. Please stop. I love you."

After a short time, he looked up at me, tears in his eyes, and apologized. Then, he emptied the trash.

Again and again during the past month, when my son has done or said something hurtful, I've ignored my instinct to send him away (to his room, to another room, just out of my sight). Again and again, I've reached out in love, let my body show him gentleness, care, compassion. Again and again, I spoke honest words to him... and listened as he spoke honest (and not always easy to hear) words back.

The difference is remarkable.

My son is still an eight year old boy. He has undesirable behaviors (don't we all?). He acts out. He's disrespectful at times. But, these situations don't get ramped up. I don't find myself getting worked up into a tizzy of frustration and yelling it all out. It's been a much more peaceful month in our home.

As I went through the month, I noticed other things, too. I touch my younger child so much more than his older siblings. As a preschooler, LilBro is still very cuddly. He climbs all over me, hangs on me, wants to be picked up. We are very physical in our interactions with each other. But, BigBro and I have much fewer physical interactions... a hug here, a kiss at bedtime. Some days, not much more that that.

So, I made another change, too. I started touching my children more. Touch feeds them. It fills them up with my unconditional love and acceptance. I tousled hair as a child walked by me. I reached for hands and squeezed. I put arms around ever-growing shoulders. And, I've made a point of laying on the couch or bed next to each of them, snuggling close and quiet, for a few minutes every single day.

I don't claim to have all the answers. I am so far from a "parenting expert," it's laughable. But, as we approach Mother's Day with a more peaceful, more gentle, more loving family dynamic, I thought I'd share the results of this answered prayer.

May you all have a peaceful and blessed Mother's Day.

No comments:

Post a Comment