Loving Our Children - Having Empathy

Posted by  | Tuesday, April 7, 2009  at 6:49 PM  

Imagine yourself in Kohl's, digging through the racks upon racks of clearance items. So many cute clothes, such great prices. What fun, right? Well, now imagine that you are a 10 year old boy. GET ME OUT OF HERE!

A few months ago I was enjoying my dig through all the after-Christmas clearance at Kohl's and this woman, her husband and her 10 year old son came up next to me. This child was at the end of his rope (not to mention the dad too) and started whining that he wanted to go. You should have heard this mom rip into him. I was so embarassed for the both of them. And I just felt so sorry for the little boy.

Fast forward to last week when I was ignoring Samuel so that I could write a blog post about this or that. He kept nagging me to come play something with him and I kept telling him to go play by himself and I would be there in a second. Then Joel crawled over and started banging on the keyboard and I lost everything I wrote. UGH! HOW FRUSTRATING!! Then a little voice said, "well, how do you think THEY feel?" Hmm, I guess I hadn't been thinking about them!

(**NOTE: This exact same scene just played out AS I WAS TYPING the above paragraph! I had to laugh at myself as Joel screamed his head off at me while I tried to keep typing. Needless to say, I put the computer up and played with my boys. I am finishing this up as they are sleeping.)

I think an important part of loving our children is putting ourselves in their shoes and seeing things from their perspective. When Samuel is being whiny or disobedient, or Joel is screaming and screeching, I try to take a step back from the situation and think about what they are feeling. Have I been ignoring them? Are they tired? hungry? What has happened in the minutes leading up to this moment? So often I can see why they are upset and redirect them or change what I am doing and I see an immediate change in their disposition. It is so helpful for me to step back from looking at things from my perspective and see things from theirs.

As I write this, I worry that some will think that I just give in to my boys' every whim and do whatever they want to do all day. Please don't get that idea. I try to proactively build up independence in my boys as well as include them in things that need to get done around the house. Have you ever tried Blanket Time? This is a great way to teach your children to play independently for a block of time. Meagan has a great post about it here with a progress report here. I also try to make household chores fun by including the boys or singing silly songs to them while I work. This usually entertains them enough to let me cook dinner or clean a bathroom.

But there are definitely times during the day when I'm on the computer or trying on a million pairs of jeans at the store and my boys have had it and I need to stop and see things through their eyes. Or Samuel will melt down because I went through the wrong door at the library when he wanted me to follow him like a train through the other door. Even though I'm frustrated and just want to keep going, I see how he thought we were playing a game and has it in his mind that we were going to go through the other door. All it takes is for me to back up and head through the other door and make a silly train sound to smooth things over.

One final thing I want to say in regard to the opening example I gave is that to love our children is to speak kindly to them and about them. It's my job as a mom to be my boys' biggest fan and to speak in a loving manner with them. If Samuel is being naughty in a store, I take him aside somewhere, get down at his level, and speak softly to him so that only he can hear. It hurts me so much when I see moms yelling at their kids. Please, by all means, address the behavior then and there, but do it in a compassionate manner.

What are your thoughts, ladies? How do you love your children? When do you have a hard time loving them?


Margaret said...

You are absolutely right about speaking to your children kindly. Very important!

noahandlylasmommi said...

great post! thanks!

Mark'sMeg said...

I totally understand, Leah :) I had to make a rule for myself not to turn on the computer unless the girls are in bed :)

I try to do what you do in stores, as well, but do you have any tips for when the child actually needs a spanking? It hasn't happened too often yet, but I know it will and I'm a little afraid to spank in public. So far I've just tried to hide behind an aisle of clothes and discreetly flick her wrist and talk to her to get her attn. She's not yet old enough to remember why I am spanking her if I try to take her to the car to do it.

Leah said...

If Samuel does something in the store that usually warrants a spanking at home, I usually use an alternative discipline technique. For example, I will get down at his level, tell him what he's done wrong and that now he will have to sit in the cart for two minutes. I don't usually spank in public. My reason is actually less of a fear of the public and more along the lines of what I said earlier - not embarassing Samuel in front of others. I figure I don't really need to discipline him much outside of the home b/c we aren't out very much and he is usually well-behaved. I will try to have a follow-up conversation about being a good boy and obeying mommy later in the car. Hope that helps.

KC said...

I have been wondering about this lately too, although my son is only 5 months old, I know it will be coming up. I have wondered how to reconcile immediate/consistent discipline with discretion and sensitivity. If you take them somewhere private to discipline, then it is not immediate, and if you don't discipline the same way each time, is it still consistent?

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