Mothering right when your kids do wrong

Think on this: Do your children see the world, and people living in it, through the eyes of Mother Teresa? Or do your children proclaim the beauty of creation and all that lives and breathes as if in one of the magical documentaries of David Attenborough? Well, as a mum your heart would skip more than a few beats faster if that were true… and then you’d wake up from a delightful daydream.…In fact, that kind of blog would be titled ‘Mothering right when your kids do absolutely everything right all the time with sprinkles on top!’

But, I’ll let you in on a secret…that’s not my experience. Not my reality, not my world. In fact, the other day I received a phone call…

“Good morning, Sarah. This is the Assistant Principal at your son’s High School. I’m ringing to let you know that your son is going to be suspended from school. And we need to have a serious chat about that.”

Gulp! Bring back that delightful mothering daydream…!

Honestly, I am drawn to choosing MOPS blog topics to write on that I am challenged by, and that I want to have a stab at! And this one is no exception. By no means am I an expert on this topic. And I’d love to read any thoughts you may have. Because mothering is a constant learning and growing experience, is it not?

Before I became a mum…

…I dreamt of what my children would be like. Well-behaved ALL of the time, impeccably dressed ALL of the time, well-mannered ALL of the time, model kinder and school students, achieving top grades and being chosen to be school representatives …

And then I became a mum…

…and my children have not lived up to my dream. And nor have I as their mother. That’s because none of us is perfect. My children make mistakes, and I also make mistakes. And at times, I get the whole parenting thing wrong.

Opportunities for growth

I could just roll myself into a ball and rock in a corner, riddled with guilt (trust me, I have done this at times). But instead, when my kids do something wrong, I make the most of the opportunity for both them and me, to learn. It’s a growing opportunity for all involved.

The first thing I do when my child does something wrong is to pause and breathe. It would be more natural for me to either completely lose it at them, or go into apology-mode, and try and immediately fix the damage they have done. My pause may be a few minutes, but as my sons have gotten older, it has morphed in some cases into hours, allowing me to carefully consider what has happened before I open my mouth and speak.

I then calmly speak to my child. I talk with them (not at them) about what has happened, asking them to tell me what they think has occurred. We talk about the situation (at a level that is age-appropriate), ensuring we both understand what went wrong, and what needs to happen now. We then discuss the consequences, both the natural ones as well as the ones that will happen now as a result of their behaviour.

Love, unconditionally

And through it all – I continue to love my sons, unconditionally. No, I do not accept the wrong behaviour, and I do express my disappointment in what they have done. They may have lost my trust for a time, but I do not condemn my child forever. Easier said than done, I know.

I also do not let guilt take over me either. Because that will render me useless and unable to continue to function effectively as a person, and as a parent. Every day is a new day, with a new start. And we are all lifelong learners when it comes to mothering.

“We are on a journey, a mutual journey, where we are growing together with our children.” (Growing With, Kara Powell and Steve Argue, Baker Books, 2019).

Sarah McIntosh
MOPS Field Manager

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