Parenting around the asshole issue
I posted this article a few weeks ago on Facebook and it got me thinking.
Not only because I'd done that to kind of laugh off/not manage my childrens' behavior in that moment, but for another reason too. One that continues to become more evident to me.
I really don't want my kids to be assholes.
I find this an especially necessary focus with Emilio right now. Not because he is one. But because he is 6.
It is this age where they are finding their full voice, they can basically do everything on their own and yet they still are carrying around that narcissism of younger childhood that is necessary for survival.
My struggle isn't with giving him the feedback, or closely parenting him and showing him the behaviors that need to change. My struggle is with balancing that and allowing him to learn on his own, and be a child and not force a developmental step that I am confident will happen in time.
I so desperately don't want my kid to be a jerk that I find myself tripping over myself to get to him fast enough. I find myself kind of intensely giving him feedback on the behaviors at inappropriate times for him to hear them, but then doubling down and leaving us both likely feeling defeated.
Last night, after he brushed his teeth, he turned to face the sink, and just spit forward. So his saliva and pieces of the freeze dried blueberries he'd been eating before his shower just went everywhere.
I kept composed.
But it started a series of direct words to him trying to get him to see that this doesn't work.
"You have to stop, and think about how your behaviors impact others."
"You are very important, but you're not the most important" (that one just left him questioning who the most important is. When I said no one he asked, "Who is the 2nd more important?"
"You need to think about working cooperatively. When you spit all over the sink we have to clean it up. When you spit in to the sink it just washes away."
Of course he didn't quite get it. Because it was 7:30pm and he was tired and tapped out of any kind of filter he may use to sit and listen and take this in.
But, of course, I didn't quite get that. Because it was 7:30pm and I was tired, and tapped out of any filter I may have to pick the right times to give my child feedback on his behavior.
And after I was done talking at the room, because I just wanted my words out, I said goodnight and he got upset. Because he knew he'd missed something, but he wasn't sure what.
I left it with Matt to chat with him about as he wound down in bed. But, I also left knowing I'd missed something.
Balance. How do I figure out that delicate balance of when to let it go, and know because I'm not an asshole my kid likely won't be, and when to be direct and make him hear me. How do I remind myself, as Matt did later, that we likely get the "worst of it" at home. How do I get over my own fear of him being alienated at school because of this behavior and not let that color how I approach this with him.
I don't know. But I also know. I know how he learns. I know positive reinforcement works. I know when he's tired he's most easily distracted. I know writing about it helps.
In the middle of the night I felt a body pressed up against, and arms wrapping around, my legs. I didn't quite compute what was happening and just lingered in the in-between state of sleep and awake. Then what felt like hours, but was likely minutes, later Emilio pulled his body up closer to mine and told me he'd had a bad dream. He needed to sleep with us. I let him nestle in. About 30 minutes later he wasn't falling back asleep and neither was I so I brought him back to his bed.
I couldn't help but think that the interaction at bedtime had left him processing his own "bad" behaviors, how he'd perceived me talking to him, where that had left him on his steadiness scale, and that had found him in his dreams.
That made me feel shitty. He's got enough to process at the end of each school day.
This morning we talked about it again. I asked him if he wanted to share his dreams and he declined. I told him that letting the thoughts out of his body is good. I told him I loved him, over and over and that I always will no matter what. And then I coached him on cooperative behaviors. He looked at me and nodded.
Which felt like much more than anything I'd gotten the night before.
And I've always known this, but I get reminded of it so often, it is worth sharing again.
We do the growing too.
And when we can slow down and recognize that, it is true cooperative action.