I posted a quip on Facebook today, something about tallying the number of times my kids said “I hate you” during a tired and difficult day of homeschooling. A few of the responses my friends posted got me thinking beyond the shared mom-joke of ruining our kids’ lives (according to them) by simply carrying out our parental duties.
On our family’s checklist of daily expectations, one item for all three kids is to use gentle hands and kind words. Showing repect to adults as well as their peers is also a requirement. Those are easy things for a parent to say, but have I ever taught my children how to do those things in the midst of frustration, disappointment, or jealousy? Heck, I have trouble when emotions flare not saying things I’ll later regret; how reasonable is it for me to expect a 7 year-old to consistently exercise appropriate restraint?
Being taken outside to spend some time surrounded by nature, without toys, was one childhood experience shared by a friend. For my crew, nature is full of toys so I’m not sure that would lead to the introspection I’m shooting for here. The idea, though, I like. Find a quiet, private place where a kid can sit with their feelings, reflect on their words and actions, and begin to understand what emotions are behind that impulse to say or do something hurtful.
Once they have a chance to figure that out, perhaps it will be easier in the future to verbalize the real feelings instead of lashing out. For my part, I’ll have to remind myself to validate and respond to those feelings, once they’re figured out, with something positive. I may not be able to fix the source problem, but I can certainly reward the effort to redirect an outburst appropriately.
Journaling has never been of much use to me, but perhaps it will be for them. Perhaps a blank book where they can write or draw what happened, how they feel, or just let out the negative onto paper instead of directed at someone else. Not a requirement, but a tool they can learn how to use if it’s helpful.
I’ll be gathering resources and giving this a try, stay tuned for an update on how it works down the road.