Sometimes, amid the discipline and control that we have in parenting, I feel sorry for my child.
My three-year-old son is a good boy. He’s outgoing, kind and he listens well, but even still, parenting is hard. We can make false commitments, empty threats or react impatiently to a child’s temper, because we get frustrated, too, but can you imagine being the child in that scenario?
As adults, when we get impatient or angry or are simply having a bad day, we get to choose how to solve that situation. We also get to choose how to respond to our environment as well as the people around us. We have the capability and the knowledge to be in control.
Small children aren’t there yet. Even though they do understand and empathize far more than we give them credit for, when they are having a hard time, it’s a scary feeling for them. When we tell them “No” or refuse to give in to their demands, they don’t always understand the justifications like we do, and they feel alone. Even when we try to talk through those justifications with our children, it can feel very deprecating and confusing to them.
And that’s not fair.
When my son is put in a situation he disagrees with — when he doesn’t want me to leave him at daycare, when he doesn’t want to get groceries or when he doesn’t want to go to bed — the angst within him is palpable. Even though I do my best to be patient with his emotions and explain to him the reasoning for my choices, he just feels hurt that he didn’t get to make a choice for himself.
And that happens a lot. Although it is our responsibility to nurture and keep them safe, we owe them compassion, too.
And so I’m constantly trying to empathize with my son. As much as I want him to feel my love through authority, I want him to feel respected, too. Because if he feels respected, he feels safe.
And they need to feel safe. They deserve to feel safe.
As difficult as parenting is, growing up in a big, adult world has to be even harder. A child doesn’t understand their own emotions sometimes, let alone our fast pace in this world. Can you imagine what fear feels like in their little bodies?
Discipline is necessary, but it does not have to equal dominance. It should be to instill love, not fear or power over a child. And we must give them love, above all else. We must give them our time and our patience and take seriously this role as a parent by choosing compassion first. When we open our hearts to their needs as well as their wants, they will begin to feel valued and appreciated, as they should.
And they will feel loved.
About the Author
Angela Tewalt is a writer, storyteller and mother to two boys. She shares parenting stories and inspiration in Guidepost Parent.
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