Monthly Archives: February, 2012

What Might My Behavior be Telling My Children? by Anne Oliphant, Psy.D., L.C.P.

Am I demonstrating self-regulation? Am I modeling the behaviors I want my children to copy? Am I controlling my anger? How am I handling my anxiety? If I have a short fuse because I am stressed or depressed, am I finding help for myself to enhance my own self-regulation?

Am I setting appropriate limits for my children?

Just as God does not want to see us stray from what is right, and gives us guidance in the Bible to help us follow the right path, loving parents set limits for their children. It is often difficult to do this in a society that seems to have no boundaries, but, as loving parents, we must set limits for our children and their behaviors; we must stand up for our values, and we must carry out appropriate consequences for our children’s inappropriate behaviors.

Am I communicating love and respect and empathy for our children?

If we think of childhood as a period of extended practice, we can imagine that it takes repeated practice and repeated mistakes for children to finally figure out what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to do things correctly. Am I remembering to “catch our children being good?” Am I noticing when they behave appropriately and telling them that I notice?

Am I giving my children the time and positive attention they need, so that they do not have to settle for “soggy chips” but, instead, get the positive attention that all of us wish for?

Am I noticing the things that they do right, instead of constantly nagging them about what they did not do or did not complete the way we expected them to?

Am I practicing forgiveness—of my children, of my spouse, of myself?

Just as God forgives us when we ask Him, am I practicing forgiveness in my family?  It is inevitable that, as parents, we are going to make mistakes. Many times we will mis-read what our children are trying to communicate to us through their behaviors. Am I going to recognize that I will “miss the mark” throughout the day, ask God for forgiveness, and then—far more difficult—forgive myself and family members?

Am I loving the child I have right here, right now, in front of me at this moment—not the fantasized image of the infant we thought we were getting before our baby was born or the child we used to have who has now become defiant and uncooperative?

It is very hard to demonstrate love for children when they seem unlovable—the screaming inconsolable infant, the toddler in mid-tantrum, the door-slamming teenager—but this is when they need our love the most. We do not have to tolerate unacceptable behaviors, and we must set limits. However, loving a seemingly unlovable child is one of the most difficult challenges of parenting. It is also one of the most important things we must do as parents.

Do I remember that when my children mess up the most, they need my love and support the most?

When I am at my worst, I need God’s love the most, and it is the same for my children. When they are their worst selves, they most need our love. They are going to mess up sometimes, and when they do, we need to be there for them—to understand, to guide, to correct, to set limits, to teach, sometimes to punish, to empathize, to forgive, and then to welcome them back into our warm and loving embrace, just as God welcomes us back into His warm, loving and everlasting care.


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