I had a humbling mother moment today when I realized one of my kids was feeling really low. “You don’t tell me ‘Good Job’ very much and instead, I’m always getting in trouble” he mumbled through tears. Ouch. Was he being dramatic and irrational? Perhaps a little. But once I opened my ears, put down my defenses, and really listened, I realized this was my child crying out for some encouragement. Double ouch.
He is the oldest child. He is the one I have the hardest time understanding. We are very different as people, which only presents more of a challenge as we attempt to connect in the day to day. I am challenged to find ways to praise and not critique; to build-up and not tear down.
It’s often so easy to place the heaviest burdens on the shoulders of our oldest children. We have the highest expectations for them because they are paving the way and setting the standard for the family. I recognized today that with the burden I place on my older children has to come a whole measure more of encouragement to build them up as they carry extra responsibilities. It made me realize that my remarks can have a host of interpretations–those meant to improve a behavior may actually come across as a put-down and overall critique. I need to do a better job of recognizing his good, praiseworthy behavior; to applaud his successes.
And when push comes to shove, I ultimately need to be the mom willing to listen.
We have friends in town who take their children out on “date nights” one-on-one with mom/dad and the child. I think this is a wonderful way to spend a little extra time investing in our children and family. Sounds like I need to plan a few of these with my oldest man–maybe a trip to the movies and out to ice cream afterward? Hopefully times like this will keep our lines of communication open and help him continue to feel comfortable sharing with me. Parenting is clearly no easy task!