Parenting Perspectives: Here’s what I said when my child accused me of “being mean” to him.
“You’re not doing what God wants you to do!”
His screeched accusation caused me to freeze in my tracks. And luckily it gave us both a chance to reset, because the preceding meltdown had been quickly spiraling out of control.
In our house, we talk a lot about “what God wants us to do.” This is our most important lesson, and nothing is more valuable than being in constant communication with God and following his plan for our lives. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.
My husband and I don’t really care so much if our children grow up to be doctors or missionaries or stay-at-home parents or consecrated religious. As long as they’re following God’s call in all their choices, we’re confident they’re on the right path.
So when we ask our children after a particularly, oh, aggressive choice they’ve made with one of their siblings if they think that’s what God wants them to do, it’s not to place a big guilt cloud over their heads, but with the intent of having them stop and think, to check in and see if their choices are matching their values.
It’s also a great reminder for my husband and me. We know that our children will learn from the example we set in our everyday lives (and that there’s a good chance they’ll ignore most of what we tell them).
By saying out loud to our children, “Is that what God wants you to do?” we have a chance to reevaluate our own actions. Does God want me to stop and play right now, or focus on getting the kitchen clean? Is my vocation to be a full-time stay-at-home mom or to be in the business world as well? Would it benefit our family more if we take a grown-ups-only vacation, or is it finally time to lug everyone down to Disney World?
It’s easy to get into the cycle of making little choices and then big choices with a knee-jerk reaction, focusing only on our own selfish desires or falling into the poor habits we picked up in the past.
I try to parent my children in the same way God parents us. Allowing natural consequences of course, but not coming down with harsh, extreme punishments. Never shaming or withholding love. Always patient and kind, but clear and firm.
In the case of my six-year-old son’s claim, he was upset because it was late and I was following through on the requirement that teeth must be brushed before bedtime. We were away from home, had been traveling for four days straight, and everyone was hopped up on too many Christmas treats. My temper was getting stirred up. We were all clinging to our last shred of humanity, and my son’s tantrum was escalating when he yelled at me with all the fierceness and conviction that a kindergartener can muster.
“You’re not doing what God wants you to do!”
I froze on the bathroom rug. I put down the toothbrush and took a deep breath. My thoughts immediately tackled the question head on, “AM I doing what God wants me to do in this moment? Would he want me to yell at my son and hold him down while I scrape tiny bristles over his teeth?”
Luckily, it hadn’t gotten to that point yet. But it was headed that way until my son brought up the question.
I looked at my son and sat down on the little footstool my daughter uses to reach the sink. I put my arms out and he came over to me silently. I quietly asked, “Do you really think that? Do you think that I’m doing something God wouldn’t want me to do?”
“Yes! You’re being mean to me!”
Ah, the truth of the moment. When we have to do something we don’t want to do or when our parent (or Almighty Father) doesn’t give us what we think we deserve, it’s perceived as malice.
I was so thankful in that moment that I hadn’t devolved into meanness, into bending his will to mine. That I hadn’t lost my cool or started yelling.
I was able to have an honest conversation with my son about what it truly looks like to do God’s will (which in his case, meant brushing his teeth like his mom asked). How as a loving parent, that means doing what is best for him, even if it feels like I’m being mean.
I was thankful that I could look in his hazel eyes and truthfully say, “Yes, I AM doing what God wants me to do.”
It’s been an idyllic summertime experience. It has brought me joy and even made me love my children more, to see them running and laughing and enjoying the simplicity of childhood. When I see the viral posts saying how we need to “give our kids a 1970′s summer” again, I just shake my head. Regardless of the decade, everything we need for a perfect summer is within us.
In a book I was recently reading, the author referenced a Facebook post that was going around a few years ago. In it, Facebook users were prompted to share a list of (somewhat random) things about themselves. Things their closest online friends might not know about them, but maybe should.
The author used it as an opportunity to pull back the facade on her life and be vulnerable with experiences from her past, feelings in her present, and fears of her future that most people didn’t realize about her. It resonated with all who read it, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
It occurred to me that I could make a list for my children. 15 Things I Want My Kids to Know About Me.
When I am laughing with my daughter on the floor as she pretends I’m her baby, watching the joy unfold on my middle son’s face as I “fly” him on my feet, or feeling the comfort of my oldest son’s arms around me at bedtime, sometimes my mind will think, “I should take a picture of this.”