It's Write A Letter Wednesday time, and there's something I'd like to say to all you parents out there...
This week something happened to a friend of mine that reminded me once again how parenting skills, or the lack of them, are learned behaviors. A parent was frustrated, upset and angry, and lost control... and responded to a child's outburst in a physical way that left a bruise, not only the kind visible to the eye, but also the kind of hurts known only to the heart.
The first things one usually hears in defense of such behaviors is, "well maybe the kid had it coming", or "you can't blame them for being angry", or "I guess I just lost control", or that classic excuse of "that's the only way they know how to react, it's how their parents treated them."
I think most parents, especially those whose children are older, would admit there are times when kids would test the patience of a saint. Parenting is admittedly the toughest job in the world. There are also times when the parent(s) are having a really bad day personally, and bring their bottled up frustrations home with them. What I want you to think about, to remember... is that anytime you find yourself feeling tired, angry or frustrated enough that you have an urge to lash out at your child - either verbally or physically - WALK AWAY!
Take some time to cool down and think it thru. Take a break from the situation and diffuse some of that negative energy. If you have to send the child to their room to keep them safe, or outside in the yard to sit or play for a bit... DO IT! Just whatever you do, DON'T touch your child in anger, and DON'T spew angry words. You will always, ALWAYS regret them when you cool down, and once those things happen, the hurts that they cause leave scars on a child that can last a lifetime.
If your parents did this to you, remember how it felt, especially from the eyes of a child who loves you with all their being and has a limited understanding of your own issues and motivations and why you are so very angry.
We know that abuse is generational. We tend to parent in same way we learned it from our parents, good or bad. BUT... don't you dare use that for an excuse! Someone has to be the one to break the cycle of abuse... to say NOT ME, I will NOT DO THAT TO MY CHILD! If you need counseling or parenting classes to learn other ways to interact with your child... do it! You are investing in something that will benefit you and your child for your entire lifetimes! It is not a crime to admit that you don't have the patience or tools to deal with the difficult moments of raising children. It IS a crime to do nothing about that, to allow yourself to behave as the child, rather than the parent and the one who is supposed to be teaching by example.
You DO have the ability to control your emotions and your behavior... you don't slug your coworkers or your boss if they make you angry. You know better than crossing that line. Draw the line in your relationships at home too, and NEVER, ever let yourself cross it.
Remember too that it isn't just about hurting a child physically. Words can hurt just as much or more. Repeated messages to a child of how bad they are, how worthless they are, how much you wish you didn't have them, how stupid, how homely, fat or clumsy... these messages sear into a child's heart and they grow up wearing these messages and living their lives in accordance with those inherited "truths" about themselves.
It amazes and sickens me to listen to a parent berate their child, young or older, on a daily basis --- "you did this wrong", "you did that wrong", "can't you ever do anything right", "don't you remember anything I tell you", "why are you so stupid", "don't you know anything". I listen and listen for some positive messages to come thru the same channels, and all too often they don't. Children who are raised to believe negative messages about themselves grow up greatly lacking in self-esteem. Low self-esteem is the most crippling disease you can pass on to your child.
I ask that you take a moment each night to thank whatever Higher Power you believe in that these precious children have been entrusted to your care. Think about the things you cherish in each child, what makes them special, in what ways do they shine. Then make sure the first words and last words out of your mouth each morning, each evening, and every time your with them is a message of praise and encouragement. A child who knows they are loved and valued unconditionally will be so much more receptive to your input, advice, and corrective discipline when needed. Talk to your child! Tell them you love them! Tell them about the joy they add to your life!
I leave you with a not so gentle reminder that when you walk out the door to work in the morning, or your child heads out the door to school... there is always a possibility that something unexpected and tragic could happen that would tear you from each other's lives forevert. Do you want the last moments you were together, the last memories you shared to be of harsh words, rough handling, and tears? Would you want to have to live with that? Talk with parents who have lost their children to accident or violence. Ask them how they would choose to spend those final moments with their child, if they knew it was to be their last time together.
Make a promise to yourself and to your child that "I love you" is the most often expressed sentiment in your home and family... and don't just say it... SHOW IT! In return you will reap countless blessings from the bonds of love established, and the strong, self-assured adults your children will become.
If you were hurt by your parents as a child, get help to deal with it. If you have hurt your child in the past, get help to heal those hurts and learn new ways of parenting. Love shouldn't hurt!
A Mom whose heart breaks every time she witnesses another child's spirit being trampled by parents who should know better.