Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Careful Words

Anyone who says that motherhood is not a "thinking job" is sorely mistaken. There are the mundane tasks that keep a mother rather occupied, but the fact of the matter is motherhood requires a TON of thinking. My sister and I often rehearse various parenting challenges to each other over the phone. Some of it is a vehicle for venting frustration, but more often than not, we are digging to the bottom of a child's motivation, determining the status of their heart, and deciphering a deep need that is silently going unmet. So it is in the vein that I write this post.

My most challenging child, whom is not built like me, and whom I therefore have the most difficult time understanding, is the child I speak of today. I have been trying very hard to measure my words to him - each and every word, in order to deliver hope into his little life.

You see, he is my "YOU NEVER...! ...I ALWAYS...!" child. The one who melts in a pile of whiney, noisy tears when I tell him that indeed he may not have a dessert after breakfast. "AAAWWWWW! Then I'm NEVER gonna have a treat!" he concludes. Of course the tantrum-esch behavior only lands him in his room (of which he refuses to go), which leads to a spanking for disobeying mommy. All for one reasonable no to an unreasonable request.

So what's happening here is that the poor little dude jumps to the hopeless conclusion that if he can't have it now, he's never gonna have it. Hey, little fella! That's simply not true. But how am I going to convince you of that? Hope. That's what will convince him.

So I slowly begin to measure my words more carefully. The answer to a sweet treat after breakfast still must be no, but I can use this opportunity to deliver hope to this little guy. I deliver the good news first, and the bad news last: You CAN have a treat after lunch. What kind of treat do you think you will want after lunch?"

For the first many weeks of careful words, I don't think he found my words all that measured. He saw right through it and still heard the 'no.' But as I kept my promises, the hope I was trying to give him began to sink in. (By the way, lest you think this whole issue is about a sweet tooth, I will assure you that it has been systemic; the melt-downs came for all sorts of reasons.)

But I have saved the most effective childhood hope-deliverer for last. This one has single-handedly changed my little dude's perpective on good behavior and given him a new-found hope that has drawn him toward me, and given us a new connection. Stay tuned for the next post on this subject.


The Chirgwin Family said...

Amen!! We struggle with this so much! I've noticed that sometimes just beginning my sentence with repeating their desire, "Did you want to take your blanket with you into the bath tub?" grabs their attention, and helps them know I understand what they want - we're on the same page. I like how you've taken it a step further with giving hope and consistenly fulfilling the request (at a later, more reasonable time/fashion) building their trust in you. Once again - thank you dear Jenne!

Jenne said...

What a great example you provided here. And really, just communicating that you understand their desire is the beginning of hope. Think about when you are in the midst of an emotional conversation and how much you relax when your husband says makes it clear that he understands what you need.