A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a devotional in the early morning hours of stillness and came across a lesson that was so profound for me as a mother and professional. I want to share this lesson with you in the hopes that it could change how you use words with your kids, too!
All of us have things that our kids do that cause automatic, negative reactions from us. For me, I have immediate overreactions when my kids do something that I perceive will require more work from me. For instance, when they spill milk all over the floor. I know it will require work from me to make sure they REALLY clean all the milk off of the floor so it doesn’t stink up the house!
The irony is that I do not even come close to having a spotless house. And truthfully, some messes do not bother me at all. Drop some cereal on the floor? No problem. Just pick it up. Drop the syrup? Or oil? Or sugar? – those feel like harder things to clean, which I immediately perceive as more work for me. I know this about myself, and continually have to pay attention to my immediate reaction as a result – because either way, it is just an accident. My kid didn’t purposefully spill the milk. So my anger and frustration is valid for me to feel, but not necessarily for me to invoke shame for.
But sometimes, my face, my words, and my body language don’t send that same message. My yelling, rolling of the eyes, huge frustrated sigh… all because of an accident! (Now…if they are purposeful in making messes, that is a much different story! What I want to realize are my anger reactions when my kids just had an accident with something.)
So this automatic anger behavior in response to an accident is what I have been working to change.
As you think about your own life, what are the things that bother you automatically??
Back to my early morning lesson. This devotional gave the language to use with our kids that makes it clear to our kids how much they matter to us. The writer shared that when accidents happen (the spilled milk, the spilled cereal, the broken toy, etc.), our job is to send the message that we love our kids more than we love that thing.
So to make words matter for good:
- “I know you spilled the milk, Adrian. I love you more than the milk.”
- “I love you more than that toy.”
This may sound silly to say out loud, but our kids (and their concrete brains) really need to hear this message directly with your words. Trust me, early on, this would have been something I would have rolled my eyes about when a therapist told me this “therapisty” thing to say! But trust me…this will work wonders in your relationship with your kid!
I would love to hear from you as you try this! What do you notice your child’s response is??
The take-home message again – When accidents happen, our job is to send the message that we love our kids more than we love that thing.