When I see my three year old pull my five year old’s hair for the thousandth time, while I’m trying to do something that I think is really important, it can be hard to not lose my cool. Men, children, and patience, are not words that get said together very often. I’m a fairly patient person, and I deal with teenagers all day, but sometimes when I come home, that patience can feel all used up. I have to stop and ask myself, how am I reacting in the heat of the moment, and what effect is that going to have on my kids?
I want to speak to my kids in a way that shows love, but that can be hard sometimes, especially when you’re disciplining them. Here are a few things I try and remember.
Louder Isn’t Always Better
Unless someone is about to see what fire feels like, or whether or not they can power a broken radio with a coat hangar and an electrical socket (yes, that was me), then you probably don’t need to yell at your kids. When you don’t feel like anyone is listening, it’s only natural to get loud and get heard, but does anyone want their kids remembering them as a yeller? A traumatic discipline session is a moment that can burn into a young mind. Get down to their level, eye to eye, and they’ll be able to hear you. You can let them know you mean business while keeping your cool.
Build Your Kids Up
If your child has done something really egregious, our first instinct might be to remind them of what a terrible thing they’ve done, or drop a flippant “Are you really that dumb?” We should call our kids out when they do something wrong, but we should be calling them on it so that we can instruct them on right living. If you’re using insults or harsh words to do that, they’ll never remember the lesson, but only the mean things dad said. And no, sarcasm is not a tool of a successful disciplinarian. Sarcasm is unkindness with a bow on it, tricking you into thinking you’re clever, when you’re really a jerk.
Tell Your Kids You Love Them
It’s not enough to show our love, but we need to say the words too. Start when they’re young, and then never stop saying “I Love You.” What a powerful reminder for a kid to hear those words every day and know that they are loved. After every timeout in our house, after they’ve been told what they did wrong, there is always an “I Love You” at the end. Despite the wrong thing you did, I will always love you. That is unwavering.
The way we speak to our kids on a daily basis will affect the person they grow up to be, and the relationship that we have with them long after they leave the house. And in the meantime, while they’re still living with us, talk to them in a way that makes them feel loved, safe, and cared for.
What have you found useful in making sure that you speak to your children in a way that shows love, while still allowing you to parent successfully?