Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Please Don't Tell my Child It's Okay

I have invited you into my home and the first thing my child does is to jump on you. My four-year-
old is a bouncing ball of energy that if harnessed correctly could probably power the world, and right now every ounce of it is being spent on you my friend. You are the new face she is intent on loving, cuddling and possibly flattening. My cheeks may begin to color slightly. As often as I try to just accept her the way she is I would be lying if I told you that embarrassment doesn't come into it at all. Then I take a deep breath and try to put on my best parenting self (for your sake as well as hers) and I say "Honey, you need to ask before touching other people." Or maybe "Sweetie, I need you to take three steps back and a deep breath. Then ask before you cuddle with so-and-so."

I sense your discomfort. You have no idea what to do in this situation. Right after my little one subjected you to what very well may have been a painful experience you are now dealing with the awkwardness of me calling her out on it. You may sense my slight embarrassment in the situation and on the whole it's just uncomfortable so you open your mouth and say the worst possible thing you could say in this moment "Don't worry about it. It's okay."

The first thing that comes to my mind is "No it most certainly is not okay.". I definitely appreciate your patience in the matter. I appreciate that you still want to be my friend/relative despite the steamrolling you just received. I appreciate that you want me to feel comfortable in this situation, but it is definitely not okay, and here's why.

First I am raising a human being, not a monkey. When adults meet with each other they do not pummel each other in the stomach, squeeze each other's faces or hang on each other with all their strength. Each of my children , from the 1st grader to the baby, are all little grown-ups in training. I have the responsibility to act appropriately and to encourage them to do so as well.

Second there are many times where my child's behavior is completely inappropriate and even dangerous. Not everyone she meets is as sturdy as you. She has little old grandmas and grandpas that she sees on occasion, and not all of them are up to the amount of crushing love that you just received. I have to have a system in place to remind her how she can act around the people that are not quite ready for her wild sweetness.

Third, and this is the most important, is because I said so. I know it sounds cliche, and way to authoritative, but I am her mother and I see far more of the picture than you. I see every time she jumps on people. I am familiar with her needs and quirks, and heart. When you say to me "It's Okay." you are another grown-up undermining my authority as her parent, and she will listen to you. You are the one who just gave her permission to do exactly what she wants to do. What child in their right mind is going to do what mom says when someone else gives them permission to disobey her.

Things you can do instead

First, don't allow her to do what I just told her not to. Support me as a parent. If you are okay with allowing her to jump on you and love you that is fine, but if I told her she has to ask first than make her ask first.

Second, don't be afraid to upset her. If you are not okay with her being on your lap than don't let her be on your lap. Children are sometimes thoughtless, whiny and manipulative. The hope  is that someday they will grow out of that, and a big part of that is not always getting what they want. Allowing my child to climb all over you when you are not okay with that teaches her nothing about personal space and the right to your own body.

Third, please continue to have patience with her and with me. Don't see this as a time to take over as her parent. Uphold what I have asked of her by reminding her gently that "Mom said". Help her to understand that  what I ask of her is important. When I asked her to get off of you I wasn't passing the baton of parenthood over to you. I am working hard to forge a good and respectful relationship as mother to my children. Respect that and allow me to do my job the way I see fit.

This situation is just one of the many snags I have run into in this journey as a parent. There are many many others that I could name, but bottom-line we all need to support parents as they try and guide their children to the right path. Have patience with us and with our little ones. Be our cheerleaders. Don't tell us how to do it , or try to do it yourself. Just look us in our tear-filled eyes and say "You're doing great mom! Keep up the good work!"

1 comment:

  1. What a great article! This has been a frustration of mine when my child was younger. However, I do have to admit that at times, I have been guilty of doing this. You worded this so perfectly and gave great suggestions on how to handle these very situations. Way to go Mom! :)