Words we say or type, things we do, and our body language tell the world what kind of person we are. Character is often defined as who we are when no one is looking. I think perhaps character is who we are when we interact with our kids. And in that case, I think a lot of us are total jerks. I will put on a happy face and chat with the cashier at the grocery store, and then turn around and snap at the child who wants quarters for the gumball machine. What is up with that? I have cashiers who consider me their friend. Deb starts smiling as soon as she sees me. I have seen pictures of her grandbabies and heard all about her various illnesses. Shouldn't I at least be as kind to my kids as I am to the woman who helps when You Scan doesn't like the weight of my perennials?
It's obvious that what we say to our children can be hurtful, but lately I've been focusing on what we say about our children. facebook really brought this to my attention. Parents will say unkind things about their children and not give it a second thought. I'm fortunate that my girls are my fb friends. It causes me to pause and think before I type anything about them or our family. I have less than 100 friends, but some people have 6 times that many (really? Does anyone have that many actual friends? but that's a different blog...) What image of my child do I want to send out to 100 of my closest friends? Do your closest 600 friends need to know that your child is annoying? Think about that for a moment. Is your child annoying? You are the one who finds your child annoying. If your child is annoying you, there is a reason for that. The reason can be complex and deep but it might be that the child is triggering some memory from your past or that the child has unmet needs and is trying to get them met as best they can. Actually, those two cover pretty much any situation I come up with!
Think about the negative or sarcastic or disrespectful thoughts about your child that you might share on fb, or say to a friend in conversation or even think silently in your head. Now go look in a mirror. The negative things you say about your child reflect who you are as a parent and as a person. I'm not saying that you should never have a moment of negative thought or frustration. I am saying that it's not about your child, it's about you. When you are completely at your wits ends and your kids seem to be pushing every button you have, don't spend your energy getting mad at your kids. Don't spend your time venting to friends. Take the time to think about why. Why am I feeling this way, why is my child acting this way (and "just to drive me crazy" is Not the answer!) What needs have not been met? Have you eaten? Has your child eaten? Do you have unrealistic expectations of your child? Have you been spending hours on the computer leaving your children to entertain themselves? Have you been meeting their needs, specially their need to feel loved and listened to, and to feel that they are more important than the computer, your phone call, the bills, your friends or anything else on the planet?
I'm not saying we should never talk about our kids. When you talk about your kids tell the world how amazing and wonderful they are. Tell the world when your kids are feeling a bit down and could use some extra love. Tell the world how much you love spending time with your kids and what fun things you did together today.
And when you are feeling frustrated, annoyed, or completely at a loss about how to be the parent you really want to be go ahead, post it on fb, talk to your friends, ask for help. But make it about you. "I'm feeling really frustrated and I'm wondering how I could have responded better in this situation." "I know my child is behaving this way for a reason and I'm having trouble figuring out what needs they have that aren't getting met, do you have any ideas of needs I'm overlooking?"
When you start to say or post something about your child stop and ask yourself if you'd be comfortable saying the same thing about your best friend, your partner or spouse. Would you post that on fb knowing that the person you were talking about could read what you are saying? Is what you are about to say going to reflect positively on you as a person and as the parent you really want to be?
What we say to our children is important. What we say about our children is, too. What do the things you say about your children tell your friends about you?