By Gary And Joy Lundberg -Family Share
It’s so easy to love a lovable child. When she or he comes to you with open arms and says “I love you, Daddy,” your heart melts. When this child does his chores without repeated urging, you can’t help but love him. When she does her homework without you holding a metaphorical stick over her head, you can’t help but love her. It’s so easy to have loving, tender feelings toward a child who simply seems to do what obedient children do.
Even these lovable children make mistakes, but because they do so many other things that please you, it’s so easy to forgive them. But what about the child who wears your nerves to the bone because he’s so … so … stubborn, uncooperative and unlovable. Day after day. What then?
A PLAN OF ACTION
Parents are human and have their own limitations. Sometimes their children can push them right to the edge, even over the edge, of these limitations. If you don’t have a plan of action for when you are over-the-top frustrated with a child, you can be pushed into actions you may regret. We are going to share a few ideas to help you in your desire to love and guide your less-lovable child effectively. Keep in mind that since kids are uniquely different, what works for one may not work as well for another. Their individuality must be taken into consideration. That old saying “one size fits all” does not always apply to how you treat your children. That being said, here are a few ideas that apply to most.
1. Pray for your child, by name. Humbly ask G0D to guide you in knowing how to help and guide (give your child’s name.) Be specific in your prayers. Let him know what is frustrating you most. Thank him for this child and ask for his guidance in knowing how to help him in the best possible way. Remember, he is G0D’s child, too. He cares deeply and will help you because you are also his child. Hold that comforting thought in your heart and move forward with faith that you will be guided.
2. Listen to your child. Too often parents are so agitated by the actions of a disruptive child that they fail to listen fully to his explanation of what happened. So bite your tongue and give her a chance to tell her side. Put yourself in her shoes and you may be quite surprised at how justified she may have been, though justification does not make an action right. Still, it opens your heart to feel a little of what she is feeling. That always leads to a more loving outcome.
3. Set boundaries in a kind yet firm way. Kindness and follow-through are key factors in creating obedient, happy children. When you set a boundary, get down on your child’s eye level, look into his eyes, and calmly explain the boundary. If you need to take his cheeks gently into your hands to be sure you have his full attention, then do it. Ask him to repeat it back to you so you can be sure he got what you meant. Be patient.
Follow up with equal kindness to make sure the boundary is kept. If it’s broken, then kindly explain it again. Over and over, patiently, kindly, until he gets it. If you think a punishment needs to be given, do it with kindness and respect. Not with anger and meanness.
4. Be your child’s example. James Baldwin, an author who experienced hard times in his youth, said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” That’s it! That’s the secret. Parents need to be an example of what they want their child to be. If you want a calm child, be calm. If you want your child to stop yelling make sure you are not yelling at him or others. If you want an honest child he needs to watch you being honest with others. Let him see in you what you want to see in him.
5. Be forgiving. Children are very good at forgiving. Parents need to be a little more like them in this regard. When your child has done something wrong to you or someone else, help her know you do not harbor any ill will. Be willing to allow yourself and your child to start over.
6. Talk to other parents. When you are frustrated about your child, talk to your friends who are also parents. You can bet they have gone through similar feelings as you. Just knowing that can help you cope better. Ask what they did. Glean ideas from them. It doesn’t mean you will use their ideas, but it may lead you to something that will work for you and your child. Even consider talking to a professional family counselor, especially if things are feeling hopeless.
7. Spend one-on-one fun time with your child. Some children misbehave in an effort to get their parent’s attention. Give it to her without her having to demand it through disruptive behavior. Go have some fun with this child. No preaching or reprimanding, just some honest-to-goodness fun together. Doing it just once won’t do the job. Fit this child into the fun part of your life. Bring her some joy. Do this and she’ll most likely want to be more obedient.
8. Love your child, regardless. Love for children must be unconditional, not based on their behavior. Most of your children will likely be a little unlovable at times, some more often than others. Still they all deserve your love, no matter what. Writer and mother, Kate Samperi said, “Before becoming a mother I had a hundred theories on how to bring up children. Now I have seven children and one theory: love them, especially when they least deserve to be loved.”
Love can change a child’s heart. No one can resist consistent love.
Gary Lundberg is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Joy is a writer and lyricist. Together they present seminars and author books on relationships.