Do you ever feel like things aren’t quite right between you and your child? Before you had kids of your own, you may have assumed that when you became a mother you’d feel wonderful about them all the time. You knew, of course, that there would be occasional conflict; you didn’t expect them to be happy when you disciplined them, for example. But still, you knew how much you’d love your kids, and you thought that that love would help you avoid most relational conflict with them.
Now, though, as your kids have grown past the baby stage and developed personalities and desires of their own, things aren’t always as happy as you imagined they’d be. If you’re like a lot of mothers, you may feel guilty that things aren’t better more often. You might feel bad that sometimes you feel like you don’t even like your children or your role as a mom. You might feel like you’re the only one struggling with your kids. You might wonder what’s wrong with you.
The truth, though, is that relationships ebb and flow. We know that’s true, and we expect rough patches in long-term relationships.
Guess what? What you have with your kids is a relationship, too. And you’ll go through rough patches in that relationship, too.
Sometimes, you just aren’t in a good place to connect. Maybe you’re not taking care of yourself and your patience is chronically low. That’s not a good match for a child who is simultaneously pushing your buttons or who is struggling with patience herself.
Or maybe your child isn’t in a good place to connect. She may be going through a phase where she’s experimenting with being a little more independent, and it means you’re not hearing much about what’s going on with her, and this is happening at a time when you’re craving more connection. Sometimes needs of individuals in the family are in conflict, and we struggle.
Rough patches just happen sometimes. Here are four suggestions to help you get some perspective on the whole situation:
Take the long view.
Realize that it’s normal for relationships to have upswings and downswings, and if you’re not hitting your stride with your child at the moment, it will likely come back around. Today may be tough, but tomorrow will be better. Or this week may be tough, and next week better. As children develop, it’s normal for them to disconnect from their parents in various ways at various stages. Stay consistent and loving in your interactions with your child, and have faith that things will come back around.
Evaluate your child’s needs.
Ask yourself whether there’s something your child needs right now that he’s not getting. More time with you? More affection? More attention? Less conversation and more independence? More responsibility? Often, a child acts out because he’s needing something and doesn’t know how to ask. So do your best to listen to his actions and see what’s going on.
Evaluate your own needs.
What do you need right now that you’re not getting? Time by yourself? Time with your spouse or friends? More sleep? More exercise? You know that old saying: If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. So take care of yourself.
Keep investing yourself in the relationship.
Time, effort, and intention go a long way. Just as in your adult relationships, you’ll see your relationship with your child grow and deepen as you put in the time and remain a consistent, steady, loving presence in his life. As the relationship ebbs and flows, be the rock your child knows she can count on when she needs you.
I’ve recently written two articles for mom.me about communicating with tweens. Here’s the one about talking with your pre-teen daughter.
She’s not a teenager yet. But she’s sure not a child anymore, at least in the way she used to be. Just last week her school notebook contained pictures of cute puppies. Now she actually talks about cute boys.
One foot in childhood, one in adolescence. Sometimes sweet and playful, sometimes moody and sensitive. She’s a tween.
How do you talk to her? Here are some suggestions.
I have a twelve-year-old son. Sometimes it’s easy to talk with him, but sometimes, it’s just not. Here’s an article I wrote about communicating with pre-teens.
Attitude. Moodiness. An emerging desire for autonomy. A growing connection to friends that appears to coincide with a decreasing connection to parents. Any of that sound familiar? If you have a son who’s a tween—a 9- to 12-year-old—then chances are at least some of that rings a bell. And most likely, one of the challenges you’re facing at the moment is how to talk to your no-longer-a-child but not-yet-a-teenager son. Here are some suggestions.
I have a new post up at mom.me. It begins like this:
I recently wrote about why we should be grateful when our little ones throw a tantrum. But aside from understanding that a tantrum is normal and even healthy, what else can we do when we’re actually in this kind of high-stress moment with our kids? I don’t believe parents should ignore a tantrum. When children are truly out of control, that’s when they need us the most. We still need to set clear boundaries, but our response should always be full of love, respect and patience.
Here are seven suggestions for dealing with a toddler’s tantrum:
Here’s a new post on Mom.me. It begins like this:
I know what you’re thinking: “File this one under ‘You can’t be serious.’”
But I am serious.
Nobody likes a tantrum: not your little one, and certainly not you. But even though we don’t enjoy our kids’ tantrums, there are plenty of reasons to be grateful for the times when they get the most upset.
For example . . .
I have a new article (with gallery) up at mom.me that focuses on being a sports parent. It begins like this.
I’m no expert when it comes to sports. I don’t regularly watch ESPN or check the box scores. But as a mom of three boys who want to play every sport that’s in season, I’ve learned a thing or two over the last few years. A lot of what I’ve learned has to do with what we, as parents, can do to support our kids and help them get the most out of their time on the field or court. Having sat in the stands for literally hundreds of games, and considering that I’ve studied my share of child development research, I feel I’ve seen enough to put together the following list of suggestions. They’re all based on one basic principle: How your children feel about sports, and about playing sports, often has a great deal to do with how you act while they’re playing.
Click here to see the whole piece.
As you can see here, I recently made a brief appearance on “Good Morning America.” I was asked to share my opinions on whether or not to use a “leash” on a small child. Only a minute fraction of what I said ended up in the actual segment, so I wrote up my thoughts in an fuller article. You can read the whole article at Mom.me (where it’s already generating a great deal of discussion). Here’s an excerpt from the piece:
You see it at the mall, at the airport, at Disneyland. A small child wears a monkey backpack, and the monkey’s tail is a tether held by the child’s parent. A leash.
Lots of people react pretty strongly against leashes for children. I even hear the practice described as “inhumane.” When I asked a friend about it, his tongue-in-cheek response was, “That’s how you get them to sit and stay.”
In my opinion, a leash is like so many other parenting tools and techniques. It’s not inherently good or bad. What matters is how it’s used: how it’s presented to the child, how and when the parent uses it, what the child’s temperament is, and why the parent is using it.
For example, I can see why a mother of young triplets might use a leash when she takes them to a crowded store. Or why the dad of an impulsive 2-year-old who has a history of bolting might feel the need to use it in airport security because he’s also attending to a 4-year-old. In fact, I’m not sure that a leash in these cases is all that different from buckling kids into a stroller to keep them contained. And, further, it might be a better alternative to what I’ve seen in parking lots, where I sometimes see a parent yanking a child’s wrist in rough ways.
In other words, I understand that in certain situations, a parent may have tried everything and eventually decided that a leash is the best way to protect her child until the child has a little more capacity for thinking and controlling impulses. Some parents are truly afraid for their child’s safety, and that fear is legitimately based on the child’s past behavior. I’ve talked to many caring parents who decided to use some form of a leash when it became a basic safety issue for their overly impulsive child who was, say, 18- to 36-months-old. And some parents feel that this provides them with a basic security that allows them to be more engaged and playful with their child.
However, all that being said, I do have three main concerns about using a restraining device like a leash.