“Mommy, will you smile at me?”
So asks my eldest, after she’s been particularly rotten all afternoon. It’s not the first time she’s asked me this. Usually, I try to wipe the scowl off my brow and give the most convincing grin I can muster. I continue to be firm, but do so gently, smilingly.
Lately I’m not so sure it’s worth my effort.
I’ve been reading (slowly) the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. They discuss, among other issues, the idea that parents should avoid making their a child feel “responsible for her parents’ feelings.” This leads to “a sense of overresponsibility for others and a lack of attunement toward her own needs.”
At the same time, parents should “allow a child to experience age-appropriate consequences.” Also, children need to learn to “respect the limits of others.” “Children need to be given the grace of having their no respected, and they need to learn to give that same grace to others.”
If you act like a brat, you piss off Mom. If you piss people off, they act pissed.
Is that such a bad lesson to learn?
As Pat put it, “It’s simple cause and effect.”
I know I must avoid hitting my child out of anger, yelling in her face, giving the silent treatment, withholding love.
But I don’t think I have to pretend to be happy when I’m not. I don’t think I have to shield her from the law of cause and effect.
Yet at the same time, I want her to know that she’s not responsible for my happiness. She’s sensitive, despite her stubbornness, and she feels the chill between us once she’s pushed my buttons too many times. I can tell how sad it makes her, and that breaks my heart.
But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m fed up with her and I’m most decidedly not happy.
I’ve taken to telling her.
“Sweets, Mommy will always love you, and I will always take care of you. Even when I’m upset. But when you and your sister are naughty, it makes me grumpy. . . . But I still love you even when I’m grumpy.”
It’s all I can do. That, and put her to bed.
Thank God It’s Bedtime.
Linking up with Housewifespice for What’s We’re Reading Wednesday.