Children are hard. Children can be difficult to deal with. Some days, I feel like I am a big, fat Mom failure and I am doing. everything. wrong.
It can feel humiliating, discouraging, and frustrating. Very often, I think that children throw tantrums for one of three very common reasons: Hungry, Tired, or Teething. Usually, it isn't their fault that they feel terrible, and they are expressing common feelings. The way we deal with it as parents is the key. Staying patient (and remembering that they're not doing this on purpose or "at us" or to make us mad!!) is so important. But I think we can also look to some other reasons for bad behavior, and I call this "spiritual training."
As a Catholic, I know Mass and the sacraments are of utmost importance. Hail Mary's have to help, too. But as a convert, I still struggle to know exactly where all of the entry points for my faith are, and where they intersect into life. (If you have any ideas, you can always leave them in the comments for me;)
Here are 7 reasons I struggle with children/ children can be hard:
1. Children do not comprehend their wrongdoing.
Without the light of relationship, we walk around like blind people- and we are "blind leading the blind." As soon as we have children, light comes shining in. We as parents have to have names for various behaviors and missteps, so that we can "teach and correct in all righteousness." We need to correct issues of self-control, not call it "sugar cravings" or "sugar crashes." We need to correct anger, not dismiss it as "behaviorally misguided." As I go through the drive-thru on my way to Whole Foods, I recognize my own hypocrisy, and the truth that children are sinners, not simply the products of an All-Organic diet done right or done wrong.
2. Children do not apologize.
"Oh, I'm so sorry Mommy... I will never do that again. I am remorseful and repentant." Is this something you hear often? Is it something children are born knowing? NO. It must be taught! Slowly, patiently, the parent must instill holy humility in their child. They're not born knowing how to patiently bear with others in love! As they grow out of frustrating teething melt-downs, they grow up into thoughtful, smart kids. Toddlers can be thoughtful, too if we are teaching them songs about love, kindness, and sharing. They get these things; we need to know that they are not too young to grasp this - especially as we model it for them.
3. Children do not get accountability.
Naturally, if a child has a struggle (such as anger, blowing up, etc.) they will not willingly seek help. They don't have the self-awareness to recognize that their behavior is something they can take responsibility for. This is something that can be taught. They can learn to "Count to Four," if the parent will discipline the child. They can have hidden away somewhere inside the holy words of the fount of life, rather than curse words and/or rotten song lyrics.
4. Children operate on power struggles.
"I said no," will be answered with "Yes, I want to do this, and I will do it." A power struggle is based on having control. A child wants to have control over what is around them, but they don't know how. In a good world, you can give them the skills and the "power" to be able to operate in a grown-up world, so that life is not exasperating for them- skills such as wiping up their tray, clearing dishes away from the table, putting dirty laundry in the hamper. Surely if you don't, you will be dealing with even more temper tantrums and control/power issues. Again, as they get older, the stakes for anger are higher, and it isn't just a bucket of grace poured over their poor, tired aching mouths, at it again with the teeth. There are consequences for missteps: lost friendships, disrespect from authority, a bad reputation.
5. Children will try to make you very, very sorry.
Children will do everything in their power to make you jealous, angry, etc. Think I'm making this one up? Does it sound too negative? Imagine with me a hungry, teething, tired toddler. Reason doesn't work. You ask them to take responsibility, and they will run to Daddy, saying, "This is YOUR fault, Mommy! I'm not talking to you anymore!" Now imagine this heightened. I don't know what having teenagers is like, but I'm sure it is *hard.*
6. Children don't change (or don't want to change).
Children live in a constant state of denial. Are you expecting them to just naturally want to talk it out, apologize sweetly, and change themselves? No, because anger is toxic. It makes people poisonous. This does damage to moods, spirits, and souls. To bring wrongdoing to the attention of children: this is your job and it is the slow work of God. Holiness doesn't happen overnight. Does that mean we should give up?
7. Children don't care.
Ultimately, this is how children act. Their deepest sympathies are with themselves. This may sound very negative. The hope is that they should outgrow these character deficiencies. By caring about them, encouraging them, building them up (not bullying or putting down*), they learn to care for those around them. They learn to control the anger and stop it before it starts, because they have tasted the sweetness of peace, and it is something they want to repeat; it is something they want to return to.
We have a no tolerance rule for a very few things in our house. Childish behavior? We know they'll eventually outgrow it (they'll have to), but don't let them joke around and slough off correction. Like dirty humor, poor behavior has to be something you have zero tolerance for. If you have a problem with it, or if you are in the company of someone who does, get space. Get away. They won't change, they won't apologize. Why stick around getting hurt over and over again?
I posted this survey to my Facebook page:
What do you think? Do you care? ;)
*Sometimes, the adults are still trying to figure this one out;)
Linking up with Kelly @ 7QT