I was having a conversation with a friend and we were talking about the phases children go through and how we wish the difficult phases away because we just want our children to be happy all the time and to have good, loving, fun times with them. The truth is, it is in the difficult phases that their characters and way of thinking are developed. Maybe it doesn’t have to be nice all the time to express our love for them. Maybe there can be a balance.

How can we look at these difficult phases differently so that we are satisfied with the way we love them?

1. Be centred in yourself

Often young children will test power and try to be the boss of you, tell you what to do, want to have their way by you doing something that you would not normally do or don’t want to do. In this place it is important to have a clear boundary to teach them that they are not in charge of you or your actions. Setting up a frame of reference of who you are and what you like to do, is essential. It is the starting point for them to learn respect for you as the parent and as an individual. If you give in to them (which may be a small insignificant situation now) they will not learn to respect your wishes later and will develop the pattern of taking you for granted.

2. Know when to be kind and listen, and when to have a firm boundary and say no

The best question to ask in each situation is: What is the lesson here? What do I want to teach them?

Example 1

If they are squeezing toothpaste all over the basin, being kind with long explanations could result in a power game where they begin to test your reaction and take power of the situation. Here a firm boundary of:  No we don’t do that, is necessary…..even if they put up a big fuss.

Here, your love for them is not measured by how happy they are in the moment, it is measured by your courage to teach them clear boundaries which will serve them when they are older. In this place focus needs to be on the boundary and not on their behaviour or making them wrong. Ie.  The lesson: “We don’t squeeze toothpaste all over the basin” and not “stop doing that, you are naughty”

Example 2

When our children come home and are really upset about something at school, that seems a little insignificant to us, this is the time to be kind and listen.

Allow them to tell you how they feel. Allow them to tell you what this means to them, and to be upset without trying to make them feel better. Ask them what they could do to feel better about the situation. Encourage them to do it. Don’t give them the solutions to their problems. Just be there for them, listening and facilitating their own thinking and feelings.

3. Parent with the end in mind

If we develop the way our children think when they are younger, it will make it SO much easier for them and for us when they are older. Having more moments where it is uncomfortable or “not as happy as you would like” now while teaching them the lessons in life is a far more fulfilling way to truly love them.

Have the courage to forfeit a bit of “comfortable, peaceful” time now to give your children the best advantage for later.

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