What Matters More Than Your Child’s Behavior

If you’re a mom, I’m sure you’ve been there. You’ve felt your face get red hot as your child loudly begged for a toy in the store as other shoppers looked on out of the corner of their eyes. You’ve felt the shame creep up your neck when your offspring hit another child or said something disrespectful in public. 

Even if no was was judging you, you were judging you. 

The eyes of onlookers seemed to bore into your back as you fumbled to make it right or do the correct “parent thing” on behalf of your small human.

What they didn’t know was that it was twenty minutes past nap time, and lunch was still to be eaten. They didn’t know that you had been up a million times with the baby or the toddler who had a nightmare or just wanted to be close to you. They didn’t know that everyone, including yourself, just needed a nap and some extra care. Most importantly, they didn’t know that the same child who was now violently throwing his head back in protest at the unfairness of life in the grocery isle had also wrapped his sticky arms around your neck with,”I love you. You’re my best mom,” at breakfast that morning.

You’re right: They don’t know. But you do. 

So what’s really bothering you, mama?

Let’s get these facts: They don’t need to know. You do. Others may judge you, (who knows) but you are your worst critic. The war is actually inside yourself. 

Even if you’re the only one who knows the missing elements from that dramatic public episode, it’s not they who need to be informed. You’re the one needing the reminder, and you’re definitely the one who needs to believe it. Because you are the mom, and you are giving life to these humans every single day. 

Somehow kids expose every inch of selfishness and pride wrapping its tenicles around our hearts. We know deep in our hearts that our kids are not the sum of the behavior they pull out in public. Somehow it still bothers us that they don’t know, but that’s just the point: they don’t know. 

Strangers are not qualified to accurately assess the life lessons being learned in your home. They certainly aren’t there for the long nights and cuddles and living room forts, much less the breaking point stress moments. They haven’t invested, so don’t give their input (imaginary or real) a platform in your mind. They don’t know. But you do!

Don’t let someone who only witnesses two seconds of your child’s behavior become a voice in your head, judging the big picture. Leave that to your spouse, your closest friends and your trusted mentors- your “lifers:” the ones in it with you for the long haul. The ones who not only share in your victories, but also walk through the dark pit of discouragement with you. 

Children are such good gauges of our spirit connection, and I have to say, 95% of the time, my daughter’s anger is a reflection of my anger, my frustrated reaction, or my lack of presence and patience.

Yes, there are times of random outbursts over a frustration when she can’t figure something out, for example, but such anger is usually dispelled by a gentle response and some loving, patient, and confidant direction or redirection. Making a big deal about the behavior at this stage usually only fuels the exasperation, heightening my frustration and making it a battle of wills that no one wins. 

I’ll admit I haven’t hit the stage of grand maul tantrums, but my toddler has definitely started exercising her little will, and I want to tell you a story.
The other week, I was trying to clean my house in a mad rush, and I got frustrated at my daughter for repeatedly trying to stick her hands in the toilet water while I was cleaning it. “Just STOP IT!” I said her name harshly and swatted her cloth diapered  bum. It didn’t hurt her through the thick diaper, but it sure provoked her. She threw her head back and screamed angrily like I have never seen. I knew instantly that I had gone wrong. 

Wow, Bren, how imature. Get it together! My connection with my child is more important than this clean toilet right now. 

She continued wailing while I took my supplies downstairs to give myself a moment to regroup. When I came back, she was waiting at the top of the stairs her little arms outstretched, wiggling her fingers in a “get me” gesture. I put aside the powerful turmoil of wanting to feel productive or accomplished and aligned my soul with love instead.

My response is more important than my child’s behavior in this moment.

There is time for the practical life stuff like scrubbing toilets, but it can’t come before the eternal stuff. This was eternal.  

She instantly went into my arms, and reciprocated my affection, forgiving me for my previous reaction. I held her close, and we sat together for a while.  

So yes, that was me last week finally experiencing first hand what it’s like to be that mom of a wiggly, noisy baby, having a hungry, overdue nap meltdown in a restaurant booth. Even Baby Einstein clips weren’t postponing the drama and restlessness. 

It was not pleasant, but I thought: so this is what it’s like? My baby is a little out of control right now, but you know what? It’s just a moment in time. I’m sorry if we are disturbing others around us, but shame is not my motivator. I’ll be patient. I’ll be kind. I’ll be fun. I’ll be confident. I’m a good mom, and we’ll get through this temporary moment in public just like we do at home. And it’s ok if I don’t get to enjoy my entree like I wanted to. 

I am showing her the art of choosing and teaching her to manage her emotions by doing it myself, and it is worth the time.

You and I have it in us to parent like Jesus gently parents us. He is so safe- so patient. His love is far deeper than our worst moments. It has life changing effects on our own parenting.

Yes, what you know, and how you respond matters more than your child’s behavior.

©Brenda Kanagy


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