Yesterday we went for a fun walk, it was just over 5km and pretty adventurous, considering we had Emma with us. The rain at the beginning of the week meant there was a lot of mud and a few nerve-wracking moments crossing rivers and mud puddles. After the walk we went for lunch and coffee, so it was a pretty long day out and by bed time we were all exhausted.
If you have a toddler you know they don’t do well when they are over-tired. Long story short I ended up making Jack cry and shouted at Emma (a few times). It was not my finest parenting moment, but I know we have all been there, probably a few times. It happens, I know that.
Afterwards I was thinking about it though. There is a school of thought that says that it’s ok for your kids to see you get cross, as long as you explain it to them and apologize. I don’t disagree with this but I do think it is one of the mixed messages we are sending to our kids.
I shout at my kids because I am tired or I am irritated. Then we all calm down and I explain I was tired and didn’t mean to shout and apologize.
What do we expect from our kids then? Well quite simply that they forgive us, understand and we move on.
When kids play and hurt one another or won’t share – how many of us make excuses for them? “She didn’t mean to hurt her.” or “Take him a cupcake and say sorry.”
Doesn’t this sort of sound like an abusive relationship? (Or am I reaching?)
But aren’t we teaching them, in doing this, that if there is an explanation and an apology then the behaviour is acceptable? Even when it isn’t?
This isn’t the only mixed signal we send.
The whole don’t hit girls thing goes around in my head often.
When kids fight – we say “don’t hit your sister” because we don’t hit girls right! But does that mean girls can hit boys? Does it mean boys can’t fight back and must assume the passive role?
Of course the default in an ideal world should always be don’t hit anyone but the world of children isn’t always ideal. While kids are learning to control their impulses and manage their emotions there are times someone innocent gets a smack. Smaller kids also get pretty physical with one another, fists can fly.
I am not condoning violence or saying kids punching is acceptable but rather I am questioning how we deal with it as parents and as a society. Boys often get encouraged to fight back, girls don’t. We tell boys not to hit girls but we seldom say “we don’t hit boys”.
Meal times are another one of those times where we send out mixed signals.
When you prepare a meal – are you hungry or is your child hungry? Or maybe neither, maybe it is just the time we are supposed to eat.
We make them sit down, hungry or not and then we tell them to eat, whether they feel like what we have made or not. We then get cross when they fight with us, telling us they don’t want to eat. Then they tell us they are full and we say “one more bite” or “finish the veggies”.
Basically we are teaching them to disregard the cues from their own body and listen to when we tell them they are hungry.