Friday, July 13, 2012

The Parenting Mistake We all Make and Need to Stop (Plus a Giveaway)

 We all do it. 

We think we’re protecting them. We think it’s for their benefit.

But we’ve all done it at some time, and it happens most often with toddlers or preschoolers. 

The setting is different for everyone, but it comes up. In the lull of a terse conversation, a child pipes in. Depending on their language abilities, the words vary, but the meaning is the same. Written across their brow, stamped into their eyes, and tilted into their head slant is the same question. “What’s wrong?” 

They heard it in our voices, or saw it in our eyes. Causes vary:  a stressful work situation, a financial tightness, or a brief marriage spat. 

Right then, we face a choice. 

Ten years ago, I responded differently than I do today. A friend of mine revolutionized the way I answer that question.

Ten years ago, I would have gently changed the conversation, or brushed aside my toddler’s questions with a slight “It’s nothing. We’re fine”-kind of answer. I so easily wanted to err on the side of protecting them from troubles or disagreements.

My friend Anne, a counselor in the mental health field for over twenty years, a licensed social worker with a masters in educational counseling and a certified Crisis Intervention Specialist quietly taught me differently one day as we worked together nearby. 

Children are so intuitive and observant. They sense when mom or dad are tense, angry or upset. But when we dismiss their worries, it discredits their inner gut feeling that something isn’t right. Anne went on to explain that while our motives are pure in wanting to keep their minds free of concerns, we end up doing our children a disservice because they learn to not trust their gut feelings that speak up announcing tension, troubles, or potentially dangerous situations. 

Building confident, perceptive children starts with acknowledging what they are sensing and can’t put into words yet. 

Your choice? My choice? In that moment when huge brown eyes are staring up at you, under furrowed brows… pause, get down to eye level, and affirm what they sensed.

“Yes, Daddy and I are thinking about something right now. You’re right.” 

Kiss them, smooth back that hair, and then say, “But it’ll be okay. And God is good. Thanks, my sweet.” 

Anne has written a poignant hardcover children’s book giving parents and caregivers tips to help children process their emotions. Through beautiful watercolor illustrations and a compelling story, families walk through a child’s hurt, disappointment and grief to a repaired relationship. 

I’d love to give away two copies of this book! There are several ways to win. In the comments below, tell me your thoughts (or disagreements) on this post above, or share a piece of parenting advice you've received and your impressions of it -- both good or bad.

Here's how:
1.) Post your answer in the comments below to get your name in the hat.
2.) Optional: Answer this question on your blog also with a link to my blog there for another chance to win.
3.) Optional: After commenting with your answer here, click Share to Facebook to post this site with your comment on your facebook wall too.

Three ways to earn your name in the hat for the books. Let me know what you do in the comments section below so I can get your name listed as many times as possible. I'll post the winner on Monday.


Houseofmills said...

That's interesting. I guess I would of thought they don't get it and just ignore it. hhmmm?? interesting. We do always just brush them off and say...go play or not now. I should do more explaining. interesting.

Posting on facebook too.

Denise said...

Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, be honest based on their age to what they can handle and include them at times in decisions, etc. Makes them feel confident in their family because they are part of it.

Jen Musokwa said...

Today my four-year old came in as we were getting ready to go to the Farmer's Market and said, "Mommy, come look!" I did and I saw that our back window of our van was smashed in. I was shocked to say the least and went in and got my husband. We were trying to stay calm but always that feeling of violation creeps in. We call the police to file a report (nothing was stolen since we keep nothing of value in there anyway) and as I am talking on the phone, I almost lose my balance and fall. It really frightened my 2-year old but I couldn't get to him. When I got off the phone, I scooped him up and put words to what he was feeling. Because of some trauma that I faced as a child, I am much more in tune that kids DO get it and know when something is wrong. I was able to comfort him and hold him, and let him know that I was fine and not hurt until he decided to get down and continue playing.

Also, if my husband and I are disagreeing about something we don't try to hide it from our kids, (unless it's something super adultlike and personal) but we let them know that we will work it out and that it is not about them. I feel like they are seeing conflict AND conflict resolution and that's what I want to model. And if I need to say sorry, I do.

Allison Moser said...

Thanks Jen! I am trying to think back on a specific instance when I was clearly upset about something and one of the kids picked up on it. I remember when I was expecting Jeff, it was early
August 1987, and I received a phone call. Janeen was not quite four years old. The call was another friend telling me that a mutual friend and her family had been in a car crash in Montana and their almost five year old was killed in that crash. After we cried and prayed on the phone together, I had to call some of our other friends with the news. Janeen could see me crying and trying to compose myself. She sat right by me on the floor, cuddling, rubbing my arm and saying "I love you Mommy. It will be okay." Had I not shared why I was upset or let her witness it firsthand, she may not have shown me the depth of how a young person can show compassion and comfort. Funny thing?! Now she is a marriage and family counselor!!
Love you!

Pam said...

I am not a parent, so no need to put me in the contest... but I just wanted to say this post rings so true to me. I never thought of that... loving kids, and loving to write for them, this really touches me.

Jennifer Dougan said...

Hi HouseofMills,

Isn't that interesting? I agree. It changed how I think of it too. Thanks for sharing it on fb too.


Jennifer Dougan said...


Nice to meet you! Thanks for stopping by my site.

Oh, your poor van window. I'm sorry. I like your image of scooping up your worried two year old, putting words to what he was feeling and cuddling him until he scampered off. Nice, Jen! That must have been so comforting to him.

Regarding parental disagreements, yes. We too try to let our kids see us modeling humble apologies, reconciliation, and forgiveness. What convicts me though are the times I fail and fight poorly in front of them too, sadly. We say sorry then also.

I'm looking forward to popping over to your site.


Jennifer Dougan said...

Jen Musokwa,

I can't, for the life of me, find your blog. Do you have an address for it?


Jennifer Dougan said...


What a compassionate beautiful image of Janeen holding your hand, rubbing your arm and comforting you! It makes me smile. How perfect that she is in counseling now too.

I remember (near)four-year old John holding my hand through pregnancy contractions before I went to the hospital to have Morgan. Very sweet.


Jennifer Dougan said...


It's not just for parents either, this book, but for caregivers of all types.

Is your writing mostly for a youth and children audience then? What do you like to write?


Pam said...

Hi Jen,

Well, I have been focused on writing for children...but now, with the blog, I am also finding myself writing inspiring stories for women... :)

Elizabeth said...

That's so interesting, I'd never thought of it before. Go Anne! She has such great insight. Thanks for posting this, Jen

Jennifer Dougan said...

Hello Elizabeth,

Yes, Anne has wonderful insights, doesn't she? An interesting angle to ponder...