I am still bullying my kids. It is not intentional, and I wish I did not, but when the days are long, and I am tired, I lose my patience and yell, threaten, shame or withhold affection. This happens with less severity and frequency than it used to, but it still happens.
1. I do not say “no” so that my kids will “learn how to hear no”. When I say no it is either because I do not have the money, time, or energy, or because I have not thought about the request being made.
I do not say no so that my kids learn how to handle dissapointment, or so that I can remain steadfast to a previously given answer. I try to say no genuinely and legitimately, rather than establishing myself as the only person with power in the relationship.
2. I do not punish my kids. I have stopped exerting authority over my children in the form of punishment. This does not mean that my children are not learning right from wrong, how to be respectful, or are “running willy-nilly”. My husband and I model the behaviors we expect from our children and do not hold them accountable for things we cannot even do ourselves! When one of my children does something hurtful or disprespectful, it is brought to their attention and addressed.
Sometimes this is done in the moment, and other times it is done hours- or even days- later while we are connected and snuggling. This allows some space between the emotion of the incident and our discussion of it. I have learned that this process can be extremely embarrassing for children, and that often times they genuinely did not know that what they were doing was wrong. During those moments of total embarrassment, I am grateful that my child has my loving arms around him for comfort.
3. I do not force my children to obey. I am learning to treat them like people- allowing them the same right to give input and have their preferences and opinions respected and heard. My choice does not “win” just because I am the mother.
4. I Change My Mind. If my child offers a reason for something that makes me see things differently, or expresses a desire for something greater than I initially understood, I change my mind. This is not back pedaling, inconsistent, or confusing. It shows my children that their mother is reasonable, and that their voices will be heard. It removes the notion that I have more power and that my word is more important.
5. I do not threaten fear. “If you get out of bed one more time I am turning the lights off”, “if you don’t hold my hand a stranger will take you”, “if you don’t come right now, I am leaving the store without you”. These are all things we have either said ourselves or heard others use to threaten their children. If we put ourselves in our child’s position- helpless, terrified, tiny… we can start to imagine what awful things these are to say to them.
Generally, I have learned to treat my children like people. When we are experiencing tension and conflict, I try to pause and recognize if it is real, or if I am artificially creating it by pulling rank.
Once we recognize the behaviors we want to change, shifting them becomes a whole lot easier.
What have you changed to stop bullying your children?