Motherhood is all about giving… but often we give our kids all the wrong things: the things that clutter our minds and homes, the things that society says are essential or the things that we think would have made our childhoods so much better.
So here are 5 things that you can give them that will be of benefit. Doing them won’t necessarily be easy but it will be worth it.
1. Give them Time
Life is such a rush with so much to do but it’s worth the effort to slow down. I know, it takes a toddler forever to do anything but bear with them. Take a moment to appreciate them, who they are, right this minute. They won’t be this way for long. That has its benefits – no more nappies, less toys strewn across your floor but for now, hold their hand and walk their pace. Stop to notice the crazy things they see. A bug, a flower, even a piece of dirt. See the wonder as they discover things at their pace. You might even find it easier on yourself if you cross some of those to do things off your list …without doing them!
2. Give them Space
Let them try … and fail. I know, as a mum you want them to succeed at everything they do, you can’t bear to see them hurt or sad but it’s important that they develop resilience and creativity, and jumping in to rescue them every time won’t help. Give them space to try to work things out before you show them how it’s done. Allow them to play alone! OK, not with you out of the house having a coffee with your friends but perhaps in another room. Somewhere you can check on them but not be right there with them. This might need to start small, a minute or two playing with their blocks, and gradually work up to longer periods appropriate to their age. PS. In my book, for what it’s worth, device time doesn’t count here.
3. Give them Affection
It doesn’t matter how old they are, appropriate physical affection is critical. Hold your baby, cuddle your toddler, ruffle your preteen’s hair, throw an arm around your teen’s shoulders. Snuggle on the couch with all of them. The hormone Oxytocin is released when you do; that’s the one that helps us form attachments to those arounds us. It’s a win/win for the whole family. Sure some kids like more cuddles than others but some physical affection is necessary for all of them. I have a 21 year old who still sits down in front of me while we watch TV to get his head rubbed and my 23 year old is a master of bear hugs.
4. Give them Direction
Yes, you’re the parent. It’s OK, even necessary, to say NO to things that are not beneficial to your kids. Too much unhealthy food – NO! Staying up until you’re too tired to function tomorrow – NO! Jumping on Grandma’s furniture – NO! Will they whine – YES! Will they cry – YES! Will it be hard work – YES! But hey, you’re the grownup and while it’s ok to let kids be kids, it’s not ok to raise disrespectful little humans. Direction can be positive too! “I love the way you are trying so hard, keep at it.” Use your words to encourage and direct them.
5. Give them Kindness
They’re little, they’re learning, they’ll make many mistakes but they will learn and grow. Be kind in how you speak, your tone, your body language. Even discipline can be done with respect rather than shame. Yelling, belittling, shaming are mean even if your toddler is pushing your buttons like only they know how! Sure, you’ll make mistakes, so be kind to yourself too. Walk away, take a few deep breaths, pray if you need to and get back in there and be kind even if you’re not feeling it.
When my boys were driving me to distraction, I would get so frustrated with them that I would vow in my head to never do anything nice for them until they turned it around! When the raging in my mind calmed, I could see that the example I was proposing to set for them was pretty hypocritical. “I won’t be nice to you until you treat me better.” It sounded even more childish than the behaviour I was frustrated with. Once I had time to regroup it would usually end with me going to their rooms while they were at school and giving them a good tidy. Making the unmade bed, picking up the dirty washing from everywhere, and as the dust settled (literally) I would find myself being grateful for the good I could see in them.
They weren’t any more perfect and neither was I but we were working again on kindness. When they arrived home their faces would light up to see their room tidy. Kindness works. Oh, and tidying their room means you know exactly what’s in there!
SA Conference Convenor
picture: Trish Montgomery and Linda Alfredsson hamming it up at the 2016 SA State Conference.