Sometimes God has to pretty much proverbially smack me over the head to make a point. I know He loves me just the way I am, but sometimes I wonder if He doesn't think I can be a little daft. Over the years, there have been many times when a "theme" will come up over and over and OVER until I just can't ignore it anymore, and the encouragement and/or admonition I get along with the message makes me know its from above.
This week I had one of those experiences. To begin with, lately I have been doing a lot of reflecting and trying to take inventory and make changes within myself to better myself, my family, and those around me. One thing I have been trying to work on is being calmer with my children, not blowing up at them or taking a negative tone with them, no matter how frustrated I am feeling. People think I am good at holding it together with my kids, but I yell and get annoyed a lot more than I should. They're kids. I need to cut them a little more slack and remind myself that they're only 2, 6, and 9. I expect a lot out of my kids, but sometimes I think maybe I am a little unrealistic.
So I already had made the conscious decision to try and watch my attitude and temper more. Then a friend posted a link to Single Dad Laughing's blog post, entitled "You just broke your child... Congratulations." The post was geared toward dads, and at first it left me feeling immensely grateful for the dad I have, and for my husband who is becoming a better dad each and every day. But as I got toward the end, he started admonishing parents to watch the things they do and don't do, and say and don't say, and to check their frustrations and attitudes at the door. It hit me.
Then someone I know called their son something I find quite derrogatory. And sadly, its not the first time I have heard someone refer to their child in a way that I find demeaning, rude, and offensive. In most of these cases, it was said in jest, but nevertheless. I am no perfect parent myself, and therefore I try not to judge other people's parenting styles, but there are places where I draw the line and just cannot let it go. Calling your child names - even jokingly, and even out of earshot - in my opinion is just plain wrong.
Yes, being a parent is hard. We all have our moments (even full days) when we feel we're going to lose it. And sometimes, we do. We will yell, say things we don't mean, or use a tone that is overly harsh. Afterall, we are the ones constantly dealing with the sibling fights, whining (oh, the whining!), bad grades, annoying habits, broken windows, scribbled-on furniture, public temper tantrums, uneccessary noise, "hey mom, hey, mom, hey mom, hey mom" repititions when we're on the phone, hating our post-baby bodies of saggy skin, extra weight, and/or c-section scars... Sometimes its akin to medieval torture! And our feelings may be totally understandable.
But think about it. You wished for this child. You were there when your child was in the womb, and you were there to see them take their first breath. The minute you saw your child, your heart found the piece it was always missing, and you fell in love deeper with your tiny new person than you ever had before, or will again. You were there during the sleepless nights, the colic, first teeth, first words, and first steps. You stayed up worrying about fevers, and choked back your own vomit as you cleaned up theirs without complaining and a heart full of sympathy. You have grinned ear to ear during dance recitals and school plays, and sat shivering in the pouring rain at t-ball games. You are the one who's always been there, the one they know they can always count on to kiss the booboo's and heal broken hearts.
How can we, therefore, justify calling our children derrogatory things? Or being unrealistically harsh?
My mom has this saying that we "create our own reality." For a long time I thought it sounded way too "hocus pocus," but when it comes to our kids, its kind of true. If your child hears that they're a brat, guess how they'll behave? Like a brat! (Every single child I can think of offhand who's parent calls them a brat is a brat.) If your child hears that they're stupid, they will think they are, and stop trying to achieve. On the other hand, if your child hears that they are smart, they will be seek to achieve. If they hear that they're kind, they'll be kind. If they hear they're beautiful or handsome, they will have elevated self-esteem. (Some will argue with me on that one, but I think as long as you focus more on reminding them the importance of inner beauty over outer, then you won't give your kid a complex.)
So I guess my point is, we need to choose our words and attitudes wisely. We need to learn to bite our tongues, have patience, and never use our child as the butt of a joke. We need to choose words that build them up, and not tear them down. We need to set our expectations high, but be there to help them attain it, with our encouraging words and positive attitudes. Our kids hear and absorb everything. We are creating their reality, their perception of the world, and perception of themselves. We are setting them on their paths for adulthood from the time they enter this world. We need to tread lightly. Its a tall order, and nobody is going to do a perfect job, but its our duty to do the very best we can. Our little people deserve it! :)