Parenting is not for the weak.
So, for some reason, my children are quite creative and curious about everything. Go figure. I think it’s hereditary, though, and I seem to get more creative and more curious the more time I spend getting to know them. And creative and curious is wonderful combination, 99% of the time. But, oh that other 1%!
So what do I do during that 1% of the time that creative and curious lands one or both of them doing something like say, scratching “I love you mom” on the car or writing all over each others’ faces with Sharpies right before we have to go to a big event or making a “magical rainstorm” in the bathroom?
Step 1: Laugh. Maybe not in front of them if I don’t want them to keep doing it. They are as bad as I am when it comes to trying to get a laugh out of people. We have to laugh at this stuff. If we don’t keep a sense of humor about it, we’ll go crazy.
Step 2: Explain instead of blame. People don’t learn life lessons by sitting and hearing a lecture. They learn by making mistakes and finding out what to do differently next time. As hard as it might be to explain why it’s not okay to pee in the neighbors’ front yard with a straight face, it’s a teaching moment. I find my children are more receptive to what I have to say when I’m calm. I don’t just meditate because I like it; I meditate because I have to if I want to stay sane!
Step 3: Have them fix it. If I get mad and stomp around mumbling to myself and clean up the wreckage on my own, I’ve taught my kids that I will clean up their messes for them and all they have to do in exchange is put up with a little grumbling. If they know that they will have to fix, clean or repair their messes, they are less likely to repeat them. (It’s okay to help—I may be “mean mom” but I’m not that mean).
Step 4: If you catch yourself losing your temper, go back to number one. It happens. So when it does, and I catch myself, I make a big silly production of it. “I’m so mad!” Make a silly face at them. Stomp a bit. And then laugh and let them know it’s okay. No mess in life is un-fixable, and that’s a good lesson to learn young. It’s also good to learn that when the people you love get mad, they don’t stop loving you.
Step 5: Give them a hug. There are so many schools of thought around punishment. Personally, I think the intentions are a much bigger issue than the actions when it comes to that type of thing. The consequences of scratching your mom’s car? You have to help fix it. Maybe you have to do extra chores to help work it off. But punish my son for writing that he loves me? Nope. I’ll laugh (and maybe cry!), and we’ll clean it. And then he gets a hug.
There are no perfect parents. Mine weren’t. I’m sure I’m not. But one thing good parents get right is choosing to respond to their children with love—every single time.
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