Cynthia walks into the kitchen just as her son, Sammy, squirts dish soap all over the floor. Sammy looks up at his mother with a huge grin on his face.
"What's wrong with you?" Cynthia yells.
Sammy's smile turns to a frown. His lip quivers. He was going to clean the floor just like his mom. He was going to surprise her.
Cynthia grabs the bottle. "Go to your room," she orders.
Sammy bolts to his room as tears run down his cheeks. Fear of his mother's anger fills his heart. His happy, helpful feelings are dashed. Hurt and worthlessness enter his soul. He flings himself on his bed sobbing...
We wonder why our children behave the way they do. We often react in anger by saying things like "I can't believe you did that" or "What's wrong with you?" These statements don't help children improve. They cause children to feel worthless and unlovable.
So, what can you do?
Be your child's 'safe place'
Pause for a few seconds, and remember this thought, "My child needs to feel safe." Children are bombarded with shows, games and frightening images. They need somewhere to feel safe. As a parent, you can be your child's greatest source of calm and security. You need to be your child's safe place.
Adjust your expectations
Sometimes, expectations for our children are out of whack. They are, after all, children. They are going do things we don't understand. They are not perfect. They are human and they make mistakes — lots of them. Slow down, and examine your expectations.
Think before you speak
Before you speak, ask yourself, "If someone I care about said this to me, would it make me feel worthless?" If the answer is yes, don't say it. You do not need to say everything that comes to your mind. Filter hurtful words even when you are angry (something that's difficult to do).
Be calm around your child
Your child needs you to be calm. Freaking out at a child sends hurtful messages. Speak kind words. When you need to be firm, be firm, but avoid raising your voice or yelling.
Spend time together
Children enjoy spending time with their parents. For children, L-O-V-E is spelled T-I-M-E. This is quality time, not quantity. Even 30 minutes of just listening to your child or reading together goes a long way. Quality time helps your child feel understood and loved.
Children hear unkind words at school, from peers, and probably even from siblings. You must be the person in your child's life who does not criticize. If your child messes up, calmly help him fix his mistake. Give feedback, not negative criticism.
Kindness does not mean being a doormat parent who lets children do whatever they want, whenever they want. Children do not feel safe with parents who do not set limits. They need boundaries. Express those boundaries with a kind tone of voice.