This article was originally posted on February 25, 2015.
As a mom of three kids, I find myself improvising moment by moment sometimes. I’ve read books and articles and listened to podcasts and presentations that provide ideas on how to discipline, instill responsibility, and teach virtues to my kids, and I feel like I have a pretty good sense of how to nurture them, but there are still circumstances that take me off guard and leave me wondering how I should respond. Yesterday I faced one of those moments.
My oldest child is in 2nd grade. He is learning how to be aware of the time and get himself ready for school and to the bus stop (which is at the end of our driveway) each morning without my help. When he forgets to watch the time and misses the bus, he has a reasonable consequence that we’ve agreed upon ahead of time.
Yesterday he got sidetracked and ended up spending much of his time playing instead of getting ready for school. He missed the bus. Usually when this happens, it’s not a big deal; he knows he has his consequence and life goes on. But yesterday when he realized he had missed the bus, he slumped to the floor and started to wail.
I left him to cry for a moment, hoping he’d feel better on his own, but five minutes later he was still going strong, and I saw that school would start soon. I encouraged him to get up and try to calm down. “Take a deep breath,” I said. Instead he cried louder. I took his hand and pulled a little to try to help him stand up. He made sure he was still completely limp and his body only flopped a little at my attempt to help him stand.
I stood there watching my wet-noodle wailer, not sure what to do next. For a second, I thought back to all the tips and tricks from my favorite parenting resources. What “trick” would work for a crying, limp child who was about to be late to school? I was stumped. I really didn’t know what to do. A thought ran through my mind, “There’s nothing left to do but love him.”
I sat down on the ground and pulled my floppy little boy into my lap. I hugged him and ran my fingers softly on his face, periodically wiping away the tears. After a few minutes, he was quiet and composed, and we both felt a lot better! He made it to school, and I continued my day too. Life went on.
Our bumpy morning was a simple reminder to me that when my kids are having a tough moment, and I find myself guessing what I should do next, it never hurts to take a step back, regroup, reach into my heart, and dish out some extra unconditional love.
QUESTION: What strategies and mantras help you to remain calm and loving when your children have a melt-down or misbehave?
CHALLENGE: In the midst of a difficult moment with your children this week, remind yourself that sometimes “there’s nothing left to do but love.”
Edited by Rachel Nielson. Feature image from Shutterstock, with graphics by Julie Finlayson.
Post image by Tiffany Hancock.
Thank you for this reminder. Love – gentle hug – and patience go so far. I will repeat to myself… sometimes there is “nothing left to do but love!!”
Thanks! I’m glad you liked it! I wrote this over a year ago and looking back I realize that just slowing down and showing empathy and just loving really do help life at home go so much better and smoother. We all want to feel loved, and as moms we get opportunities to provide so much of that in our families.
Thanks for this thought – I can relate to the problem-solving approach to parenting when sometimes an extra helping of love is the best cure.
I agree with you! I think love really is a cure for SO many things. And, even if it doesn’t always cure everything, when our kids know that their mom loves them it hopefully makes their disappointments and struggles easier.
I know exactly what you mean when you refer to thinking “back to all the tips and tricks from all my favorite parenting resources”, I do the same thing! I’ve recently had the thought/realization that we tend to expect a lot from our kids, and it can be easy for me to focus on when they don’t meet those detailed expectations; what the consequences are, following through with those consequences, and making sure they learn/understand from them. Though sometimes I think I kind of miss the mark in doing that; that I personally sometimes (read: all the time) need to feel love and understanding in the face of my shortcomings and mistakes, and my kids are no different. Thanks for this post! Oh, on another note, what is the consequence for missing the bus? It is a common problem in our household these days 🙂
Sarah, thanks for your thoughts! I know what you mean about “missing the mark.”
Sometimes I mistakenly focus too much on expectations and consequences. I think that if our kids know our love for them then that can be motivation enough for them to do many things. I wrote this post a year ago and to be honest I can’t remember what the consequence for missing the bus was. I think I might have given him the chance to ‘earn’ playing computer games if he made the bus. It is interesting reading this story a year later because my son makes the bus almost every morning without any help now. I don’t think this is because of anything I did. I think he just grew up enough to do it. Perhaps I was expecting something from him a little too soon…Sometimes the problems we face with our children are so fleeting, a year later things can be completely different. That’s why it’s important for us to be deliberate with keeping the love flowing even during the bumps, because more often than not those little problems pass with time. And, I agree with you, when my shortcomings are met with love and understanding I am always thankful!
Love this article and have thought about it many times some it was written! What is your little boys consequence? Always looking for ideas!
Very wise, intelligent solution. I would not have thought of that. I’m sure my typical reaction would have been wrong. I often feel like what you did was what I “should” do, but I am always in a hurry and impatient and lose my cool easily.
I am a single dad with 3 kids full time. I do my best, but I am a man’s man and not very good at being soft and comforting. I am a great dad but my mothering skills are not so hot. I would have pulled him up and made him get on with the business of getting to school all while he was still crying. I would have been very gruff and impatient. I will admit, when it comes to parenting small children (I have a 3 yr. old and two teenagers), I struggle quite a bit with the patience and calm aspects.
But your article has made me stop and realize that in the case of children this is the perfect solution. Unconditional love does not work with adults but is a very good way of comforting and getting past the incident with minimal trauma and chaos.
Thank you for your insight and imparting this experience. It has opened my eyes and made me consider alternatives to my usual parenting actions.