This is a tough one. We love our kids. We brag about our kids. But no matter how great your kids are, at some point they will probably disappoint you. I’m not referring to the little stuff that drives you bonkers, but of the heart hurting situations which make you worry for their futures. It’s inevitable. They’re learning and growing and more often than not, sometimes they have to learn the hard way.
You need a thick skin and a sensitive heart.
For the little ones…
Children are messy. It’s in their nature to pretty much destroy everything, even nice, expensive things that you bought especially for them. They leave a trail of toys everywhere and rarely clean up without being told to do so over and over again. This is the nature of children.
“But Angie! I know this. I’m aware. And I don’t need to purposely ‘forgive’ my children for that.” – you say.
But what about the times where you’re backlogged at work and you have this one specific deadline and you’re running behind and you need to feed said children and everything seems to be going wrong and the children are doing what children do best? I’ve been there. It’s like they’re specifically TRYING to make things worse, which of course is silly, but it sure feels that way. Being frustrated, losing our parental cool, and blowing our proverbial tops DOES happen. It happens to all of us. Then after speaking harsh words spoken in frustration we feel badly afterwards.
Now, listen closely, I’m NOT saying we shouldn’t give consequences. But there should be natural consequences and the punishment should always fit the “crime”. And then… we MOVE ON.
We shouldn’t keep punishing, keep reminding them about their previous error. We shouldn’t rub it in, or tell them “I told you so.” Give your child grace, forgiveness and love. Don’t hammer home their minor misdeeds. We don’t shout and rage about a simple, honest mistake.
If a child can’t make a mistake at home without fear, then how are they going to handle bigger mistakes in life? How are they going to handle errors when someone else is doling out consequences, someone who doesn’t love them like we do?
So forgive them! We don’t need to take everything so seriously. Help them take care of their foible. Encourage them to try harder next time. Teach them appropriate responses to the situation in question. Guide them to the right choices.
For the not-so-little-ones…
The little kid issues are now gone. Up next? Adolescence and all the teenagery issues that come with that. Yes. I know. It’s a HUGE transition. Where once stood a sweet loving child who couldn’t get enough hugs and kisses, now stands a teen – who is learning to be independent/going through the ravages of puberty/is pushing your boundaries.
This is a whole new world with incredibly high stakes. Push too hard and you could alienate them. Don’t push hard enough and they could make some life altering mistakes.
Underage drinking or lying about their whereabouts or <gulp> saying they hate you or worse. A little bit of your heart gets broken and how in the heck do you learn how to forgive that?
We have to let go of unrealistic expectations and recreate them with this new person we see before us. They’re moving towards adulthood. They’re playing the come here/go away (but not too far away) dance. One minute they’re demanding our attention, the next they want to be with their friends 24-7. If we clutch too tightly, it doesn’t work. If we hold on too loosely, it also doesn’t work.
Restructure your ideas about this whole new person in front of you. Accept that things are changing, whether we want them to or not so much. People act the way we treat them, and if parents handle kids like they are rotten, they either will be, or they will cut their parents out of their lives. “Teenagers are all crazy/selfish/irresponsible/lazy.” Somehow, it’s socially acceptable to belittle teenagers.
Yes, parents should be cautious and careful; we should all know the signs of depression, drug abuse, alcoholism, promiscuity etc. But if we create an environment of rigid rules, suspicion and distrust, kids are drawn to dangerous behaviours.
I know it sounds strange. But a step beyond acceptance is grieving the loss of childhood. The “I remember when she used to come to me for everything” and the “There was a time I was the most important person in my son’s life”. We need to watch ourselves for signs of resentment and be aware of the ever changing needs of adolescence.
This is all about the letting go. This is extremely hard to do, especially when our relationship with our young teens can be adversarial. As parents, we get blamed for lots of things, especially when we have to set firm boundaries. We’re “not fair” or “mean” or “trying to ruin lives”. Puberty is hard. We have to work through any lingering resentments, realise that they’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to do, take a deep breath, and let it go.
We’ve been taught this. To give or withhold affection as way of motivating our children to please. To only “feel the love” if they comply with what we want them to do. Heard of the Silent Treatment? Yep. That’s the one.
Nothing is as important to a child as knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt how wanted, valued, and supported they are by their parents.
Be mindful of the giving or withholding of affection as way of motivating children. When we do this our children learn that only if they meet our expectations will they “feel the love” they need. While our children might very well strive to please, their constant compliance with our expectations can create some serious difficulties. People pleasing, overcompensating, perfectionism… it all creates unhappy children.
We might not always like our child’s behavior, but don’t punish a child for being a child, don’t withdraw love even when things are hard. Sometimes love means allowing a natural consequence. Sometimes love means they hurt. But how else will they learn? And if you’re standing next to them, there’s nothing you can’t handle… together.
Have you ever been in a situation where you have to forgive your children? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Let’s talk about it!
And speaking of Forgiveness…
I hope you’ll join ABC (Angie’s Book Club) and we can explore the riches that a good book delivers. Just look to the upper right side of my website and enter your info – I solemnly swear that your information is safe with me!
This September I’ll be hosting an event featuring Iyanla Vanzant’s amazing book Forgiveness. Every wednesday I’ll be going live and having a discussion on Facebook about where I am with the book and what resonated with me… I hope you’ll read along and join me.