If Your Spouse Talked to You The Way You Talk to Your Kids…
Author: Lauren Fox
Every parent has done it at some point: The inevitable melt down. The yelling or screaming at your kids, and then the guilt trip that follows. It happens in the grocery store, at dinner time, or pretty much any second of the day, right? So how is it that we can prevent this from happening? What can we do as parents to navigate these difficult times, and why is it so critical that we understand how our reactions can help our children learn to handle their own behavior in a positive way?
It may just boil down to respect. Respect for someone tends to be at the core of a healthy relationship, no matter the age. After reading an article by Lishele Wigand on how one question changed the way she parented forever, we were intrigued to get her take on respecting our youngsters. So, we caught up with her to see her takes on parenting better and how to ask yourself one very important question: What if your spouse talked to you the way you talk to your kids?
First, how did you get to writing on parenting and what compelled you to share your beliefs and stories from your journey?
I love writing about parenting because every child is so different and there is a million ways to parent. I enjoy sharing what has (and hasn’t) worked for me. My blog isn’t only about parenting, although that is my primary job in life! I love writing about marriage (that’s my favorite), health, and parenting. There’s so much value in learning from each others’ experiences, so it’s amazing to be able to share my life with my followers.
You have an article called The Question That Changed the Way I Parent Forever. What made you write about that topic, and what’s the story behind you asking yourself this question?
I was reading a book that talked about how we are our child’s first experience of love in this world. That’s an honor and a heavy responsibility. The way we show them love will undoubtedly shape the way they give and receive love all throughout their lives. That topic sparked the question for me: Am I showing my kids love and respect so when they are older they’ll have healthy relationships? It got me thinking about how I want them to be treated and what I want them to expect from others. Kids who are yelled at put off anger all the time. They tend to expect they’ll get yelled at and view it as normal. Kids who feel respected, tend to respect others and expect respect in return. Part of love and respect is discipline and we do discipline our children, but we try to do it from love and not anger.
Do you think it’s really feasible to compare an adult relationship to one with your child? Is there a case for talking to kids like kids or is it more about the way you treat them and how you make them feel?
I’m so glad you asked this, it was more food for thought than an entire parenting protocol. When I asked myself the question, I wasn’t saying you should never raise your voice, discipline your kids or show anger or disappointment. The point is to show your kids respect. Hear their side of a story before disciplining or flying off the handle. Try to step into their shoes to see what they’re experiencing. At the end of the day, we’re a team and we’re here to guide them and help them work through tough feelings or bad behaviors. A firm voice, clear boundaries, consequences and respect go a long way for kids, and every relationship for that matter. Although we don’t discipline our spouse, there are consequences to their actions, too!
For example, if a spouse cheats, there will be a consequence. Maybe you have to go to counseling or get a divorce. It won’t be a time out, spanking, or loss of a privilege because a child’s consequences differ from an adult’s. One thing is for sure, children who face consequences and are given respect tend to grow up to be adults who understand that their actions have consequences, and that’s the end goal. We are trying to raise kids who will be emotionally healthy, strong, and confident adults.
When you are having a really bad day with the kiddos, how do you reel in your emotions and not lose it on them? What do you suggest moms try or in what ways can you discipline them since you don’t technically discipline a spouse (even if we want to sometimes;)…
I am not on a soap box over here… trust me I’ve lost my cool many times, and when I do, I always ask my kids to forgive me. That’s where the respect comes in. Respect does not mean caving in, doing what they say, or letting them make the rules. To me, respect means hearing them, letting the consequences fit the crime, and talking about what to do better next time. Generally, if I feel I am getting too upset to mindfully handle a situation, I will tell my kids to go to their room for a 5 minute break so we can all cool off. Then I will think of an appropriate way to handle whatever is happening. It isn’t a punishment; I actually tell them, “Mommy needs a minute so I don’t overreact.” And they get it.
We’ve all been angry and blurted out something we didn’t mean or gotten too angry. Usually when I’m overly angry it’s because I’ve taken their behavior personally or I’ve expected too much from my child at their age. I remember when my son was 2, I would get so mad that he would be loud in a restaurant, now he’s 6 and we can eat in peace easily, but now I get irritated that he doesn’t listen the first time EVERY time. While these are normal irritations, they are high expectations for the age, so sometimes I have to ask myself, “Am I expecting perfection? Is this an age appropriate expectation?”
You have to know your child, because they each have different strengths and some expectations will be different for each child, and some are constant. For example, manners will always be expected. However, my kids have different attention spans, and I’m aware of their limits. When my son doesn’t listen the first time, it’s usually because I asked him from a distance, so if I kneel to his level and talk to him, I know I will get his attention.. sometimes I need to change my approach instead of getting mad at the kids!
Can you give any specific examples on how moms should talk to their children, or more, how should we not talk to them? Any good/ bad stories you’ve experienced personally?
Lately, my kids bicker with one another. They are 6 and 4 (the 2 year old doesn’t do it yet!) so they disagree on things or have little spats. When they do, I ask them to sit on the steps, and I have each kid tell me what THEY did wrong. They always want to tell me what the other one did. I want them to take ownership of their actions. Then I have them tell each other how it made them feel. Then they need to come up with a way to share, take turns, play nicely or forgive each other (depending on what happened). Sometimes I’ll have them write a note to each other or pick a flower, something to cheer the hurt feelings.
It’s respectful because they feel heard. They also own their actions, and they learn to fix their wrongs. I don’t shame them and yell and fight over it. Sometimes they pout or don’t want to do it, and I tell them they can go to their room for 5 minutes so they’re ready to face the problem with a clear mind. Since I’ve done this consistently, now I ask them if they can solve it or if they need my help. They usually work it out together, but sometimes I have to step in.
My toughest times are when we’re in the car or out in public in a hurry and I don’t have the time (or I’m chasing the 2 year old) to really walk them through it. I do my best, but sometimes I let it go and address it when we get home.
Also, food and sleep! A lot of times they are just hungry or tired and need to have those needs met!
Once you implemented this way of parenting, were there any noticeable results? Do you think your kids noticed?
Each kid is different. My son really needs to be heard so he loves telling me what happened or why it happened; he loves being validated that it’s OK to be angry or upset. Once he is heard, he usually relaxes and can handle his feelings better. My daughter is different. She likes to sulk a little. She really does well with going to her room to calm down and then once she has cried or had a minute to pout, then she’s ready to talk. She usually needs a hug more than anything. Or food. She always needs food!
You have to pay attention to what works for each kid because they have different needs. The most respectful thing you can do as a parent is listen, recognize that children need help and need to learn how to get through their emotions, and then be that help for them. Remembering that we’re on their team helps. “Let’s figure this out together.” Or “I see you’re upset; how can you show that without hitting?” “I see that you don’t want to wait your turn, can I sit here with you and we will wait together?” “You’re really upset you can’t have candy right now. I would be, too, it looks yummy. But Mommy said no, so let’s go cut an apple!”
There’s always an age appropriate way to respect your children without losing it. My kids have both responded well, but we’ve always implemented this so it’s not super new for us. It just works best for our family. Each age and stage has its own difficulties but we continue to tackle it together and remain a team.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWEE
My name is Lishele Wigand (Instagram is lishele.wig). I have my Bachelors degree in Science and Nutrition and have worked with clients on healthy living. Then my husband and I found out we were pregnant after being told we wouldn’t be able to have kids! I stopped working and became a stay at home mom which quickly became my favorite title. I began blogging about marriage and parenting on the side and that’s been my heart’s work ever since! We are happily married and have 3 beautiful kids now. We love to travel, learn, explore and love.