I’ve also been reflecting on the other of the themes. Relationships. I’ve seen many examples of adults who have next to no relationship with one or both of their parents. Adult siblings who wouldn’t really list each other as friends but have to keep seeing each other because they are related. Relationships where there is a strong desire to remain close yet no mechanism to manage difficult feelings, discuss conflict or manage clashing expectations.
It makes me sad to see parents hammering away on their child’s faults, berating them for their immature (and often downright gross) behaviour. The parents are coming from a place of love – they don’t want their child to grow up with terrible manners or no ability to do a chore or tear themselves away from the screen but I wonder how the kids feel? I also feel sad when I see kids who are totally unlimited – getting whatever they “want” when they want, because that is actually causing them some serious long term implications as well. And I’m also looking at myself. Managing behaviour has often led me to ranting and raving over outcomes, rather than teaching and training hearts and minds.
I look ahead to friends and acquaintances whose kids are older, finishing high school or moving into adulthood and I watch and question, trying to learn from the good, the bad and the ugly. The families I most admire are those with strong relationships – where siblings, parents and spouses actually want to spend time together, they have a shared history, shared language, jokes, interests, a team mentality. These families rarely have kids who behave perfectly or have never been through hard times, but they seem to come through each faze and fad relatively unscathed, with those bonds of kindness and joy still in place.
When I correct my kids behaviour (as I should – that’s part of our job as parents) I often think that good behaviour will equal better relationships. If you don’t hit your brother then he will love you a lot more (which is a true story). However lately I’m wondering if it actually starts with the egg, not the chicken. If you learn what it means to love your brother, you won’t hit him at all. Sometimes our kids behaviour makes us not want to relate to them very much. They’re being hideous, lets put the TV on, hang on till school goes back, keep them busy with outside activities and not have to deal with them so much. Their behaviour is rubbish, so I sort of have a right not to do much relationship with them. I’m realising that good relationships will actually bear fruit in better behaviour. When I, the adult, put away my screen and ask to play with my kids, their behaviour improves. When I, the trainer and coach, teach my kids a new skill and praise them for it, they in turn start to ask if there’s something else they can do with me, for me. When I, the tired Mum, take time to make eye contact with my husband, ask questions about his day, speak positive words about him when he’s not around, I have a better ability to tell the kids to be kind to each other.
So much of parenting flows from how we, the parents, behave and the relationships we foster in our families. Sometimes our kids crappy behaviour can tell us more about ourselves than them – not in a ‘it’s your fault – bad parent’ way but in showing the ways in which our kids hearts are hungry for something. Let’s look past discipline and start teaching and training our kids in relationships.