Yesterday, I took my two year old and seven year old to a kindersymphony at the Queen Elizabeth Playhouse in Vancouver. The music was wonderful, with a brass quartet accompanying two charming vocalists in a celebration of Beethoven for young children. The theatre was packed, with kids, parents and fishy crackers. We were surrounded by parents listening, singing along and in the short 45 minute performance, unwrapping cheese strings, popping open teddy grahams, scooping into yogurt tubs and doling out fishy crackers.
Remember those days before children when we could honestly say we couldn’t remember the last time we lost our temper? Do you now find from time to time, you don’t recognize yourself in your own behavior? Children have the ability to push buttons we didn’t even know we had and can push us to a point where we later regret our words and/or actions. Welcome to parenthood. I remember losing it once with my two children over them not going to bed and thinking: “Who was that?” I don’t think there is anything else in the world that brings so much joy while at the same time so much anxiety. Beating yourself up over your reaction to a certain behavior is neither fair on yourself nor productive. We’re all human and often say things we regret. Children need to know we too make mistakes.
In speaking with parents a comment I frequently hear is “My child won’t listen!” Repeated attempts in trying to get a child to co-operate often lands on deaf ears and leaves parents feeling exhausted and helpless. Frequently we say things we later regret and become riddled with guilt. Usual attempts often include nagging, yelling, spanking, time out, lecturing and threats. Despite consistently not getting the results we’re looking for, we resort to the same methods time and time again. We usually use what we were taught to use by our own parents. Although we often resolve to ourselves that we will do things differently and not resort to some of their methods of parenting, we do. It seems to be automatic. This is not intended to be an article about blaming our parents, rather an understanding of why we do what we do and provide some alternative responses. There were no parenting courses for our parents and they all did the best they knew how.
For some of us who grew up with siblings we have vivid memories of how our parents handled fighting. Some of us remember always being the one who was blamed; others remember everyone being punished regardless of who the instigator was and some of us remember our parent getting so angry, the fighting only escalated. Over the years, I've often heard adults say they still hold a grudge against their sibling. What can we do to ensure our children grow up respecting and liking each other?
There aren't a whole lot of behaviors that test our patience as a parent more than temper tantrums. If we're over tired, over scheduled, or over worked, it's often the last thing we want to have to deal with. Some children have them on occasion but many children have them regularly.
A common theme over the past 20 years has been how much children have changed from when we were growing up in terms of how they show respect. I know that for the most part in the 1960's, anyone in a position of authority commanded respect which included parents, teachers, police officers, principals, bosses, coaches and anyone else we viewed in some way as a person in authority. We in fact were taught to "obey" and do as we were told; no questions asked. Many of those people did command respect but unfortunately many of them abused their position of power and felt they were licensed to say and do whatever they wanted simply by virtue of the position they held.