Kids can be really trying. They may be adorable and yes, we love them with all our hearts and minds and souls, but that doesn’t mean we are always patient with them and understanding. The years may go by fast but the days are often long, tiring, and bedtime cannot come soon enough. Something I have been having to remind myself of lately is that my kids are worth being patient for. They are worth talking nicer to. They are worth listening to even when I do not want to listen. They are little but they are people and have thoughts and feeling and desires and ideas and they want to share them and be understood and be responded to, even when we feel it’s something silly or small or common sense.
When the kids are breaking a rule that I have been reminding them of all day long, it can become a huge struggle to be patient. But they are worth doing it for and your kids are too. When our kids are older, we don’t want their memory of us to be red faced and yelling about standing on the couch (for the 500th time) or of us yelling at them for a sibling fight that they were actually the victim of and not the initiator. Our kids deserve to be heard and loved on, even when we have had rough days. They deserve to be talked to like equals and reminded of the rules in love and kindness, and not with impatience and aggression. Even when our intentions are good and for their safety, if it comes out of our mouths in anger, the lesson of love is lost on our children.
When we talk our kids down and let ourselves snap, we are bullying our own children. We are taking advantage of our size and authority over them and using it against them. When we angrily grab them and move them to a place where they are less likely to get hurt- in our minds we are getting them to safety, but they see the aggression and all they are taught is that we can be rough and get physical to those smaller than us who do things we don’t like.
We are all human and it can be extremely difficult to get through a day without getting at all impatient and exasperated, but our kids are worth the effort. They are worth reminding ourselves that they need to be treated equally. They are not trying to upset us. They are not trying to mistreat the house, hurt their sibling (well, we hope not!), or put themselves in danger. They are just playing the way they play and being who they are meant to be at these young ages. As parents, there are better, nicer ways to remind our kids of the rules. There are more loving ways to move them to safety. If your tone and presence is impatient and frustrated, the message you are sending your child is one of impatience and frustration.
Remember, these little people may seem little right now but they will grow to be adults soon enough. What kind of adults are we trying to raise? I know I hope to raise adults who are kind, loving and patient. Adults who respect others and sympathize with others feelings. Adults with empathy and compassion. Adults with healthy coping mechanisms and aren’t easily brought to anger. In order to do that, I need to be the kind of adult to them I want them to become, because we are the biggest influence in their lives.
It takes work to change. It takes work, and thought, and purpose and intention to direct our actions when our emotions and exhaustion is getting the best of us. Our children are worth it, though. Knowing we made their day a little better. That they were yelled at less, laughed more, and had better lifelong examples of kindness instilled in them is worth it.
I try to be really aware of my language with my kids. No, I’m not talking about bad language, though I don’t do that either. I try to phrase things and speak to them in ways that will make them grow as people. For example, when I discipline, I try to speak words that will correct their behavior so that they will grow to become better, respectful, loving humans. I try not to use words that tear down or rip apart or shame in the name of disciple. I even desire to stay away from the neutral language that does neither. If it does not uplift and help them grow and be better than it isn’t necessary. Of course, I fail at this regularly, being human and all, but I am hoping that even just having this desire in my mind and heart will help keep me doing better than I would if I didn’t have these concepts in my mind.
So with everything I’ve been asking myself, “How are these words, this phrasing and this tone affecting their minds, self esteems, desire? How will this effect who they will be? How will this effect how they treat their own possible kids some day?”. If I can’t say I’m instilling good behaviors, feelings, and habits I start planning out a new way to treat situations that are more productive.
So I stopped calling my kids smart. I used to call them smart. “Wow, Ariel. You finished that puzzle fast. You are so smart!”. “Eve, you know all the words on that page? You are so smart”. I do not say those things anymore. I have traded in my language. Instead of rewarding natural ability I praise their efforts, the work it took to get something done, whether it took them little effort or great effort.
You might be asking Why? What is wrong with being smart? It makes people feel good and more confident to be told they are smart, right? That’s good for self-esteem.
Actually I’ve learned it is not that great. An article I recently read went into great depth discussing how children who are complimented off of their natural born intelligence get frustrated by harder work easier. Even children with really high IQ’s give up almost immediately when they hit a tough area because if it does not come natural to them they think it is not something they can do. While Children who are complimented for the work they put into a job, work harder and feel they can accomplish things if they just put the time and effort into it.
The research done showed that the children whose focus was based more on intelligence felt that needing to put effort into a subject or activity was evidence that they were not actually smart so avoiding those more difficult content areas was their preference over working harder at it so others wouldn’t believe them to not really be smart. While kids whose emphasis was on working hard felt that their smartness could grow and develop with effort. Teaching kids that their brain was a muscle that got stronger when worked had kids focusing more and getting better results.
No matter where my kids all fall on the IQ scale, I want them each to know that if they work hard for something they can achieve it. That if they desire to learn it and devote their time to learning something, they can learn it, whether it’s a natural skill or not. We are all born with different natural abilities and different levels of intelligence, which means we are not all equal in this area but we all have just as much potential if we are willing to work for it. I believe all my kids to be smart and am looking forward to continuing to work and learn with them and watch them grow and develop. I know that my kids “are smart” and I love that they will be able to see that their smarts are effort based and that they are intelligent people and all they have to do is put some effort into it and they can be as intelligent as they work to be.