It had happened again like it does every week or two. The kids’ room had become a complete disaster area! Their toys, which I have neatly categorized, have been scattered across every surface, the main one being the floor. Clean clothes from their drawers scattered, dirty laundry left there in the mix. Costumes from their dress-up play strewn everywhere.
The mere sight of it gave me anxiety!
I decided to teach them a lesson. I started throwing everything into some trash bags and boxes, picking up every last toy, article of clothing, and superhero cape. Leaving nothing on the floor, I gathered their entire stash of belongings…..
((WARNING! What I did next might surprise you!))
I took those garbage bags and boxes, dumped them ALL onto the living room floor, I put on my favorite music, lit a candle, and I lovingly and cheerfully reorganized the piles and placed everything back into their room neatly, my heart overflowing with love for my babies the entire time.
As a homeschooling mom of four, I am tired! I have a lot on my plate! And to see the hard work I put in to be completely undone daily CAN feel like a direct attack on me and my worth….. BUT IT IS NOT! It’s not an attack on me.
If I feel overwhelmed at the mere sight of their messy room, how do expect they must feel if I tell them, with a raised voice, that it’s their job to clean up on their own? Worse, what if I threaten to take away the very things they call their own because I am triggered by a mess?
I know what you might be thinking! “But you said you wanted to teach them a lesson! What lesson are you teaching by doing this?”
The lesson I want to teach my kids in this situation is that I am here for them when things get overwhelming and when the mess becomes too much for them to clean up alone. Above just about everything else, I believe our children need to know that they can come to us for support when they need it. They need to know they’re worthy of our unconditional love. When we punish them and shame them every time WE have negative feelings, they don’t get the message that they’re loved unconditionally.
Do any parents out there have a hard time reaching out for help when you need it? Do you habitually say “I’m fine” and take on yet one more task, even when you’re feeling completely overwhelmed? Even when someone offers to help you, do you tell them, “No, I’ve got it!”?
I know that I do those things often!!
Why do you think we do this? Something in our subconscious mind is telling us that we AREN’T WORTH HELPING…that we must carry our burdens ourselves, and pretend we are fine!!
Now, when you look at your child, whether 4 months or 40 years old, do you want him or her to feel that way? Do you want your child to be too afraid to reach out when they’re feeling defeated? Or do you want him or her to feel unworthy of help, support, and love? If you are like me and answered “no” I suggest taking a look at your response to these types of situations that come up in your home, over and over again. Our responses to these situations as parents will absolutely make or break our children’s inner-worlds —- their paradigms regarding how significant, worthy, and lovable they are.
Now, I know some will see this and say “If we just do everything for our kids and never let them work for what they have, they’ll be lazy and incompetent.” And to that, I will tell you, my technique is absolutely not to do everything for them!! But instead, my strategy is to EMPOWER them to find their capabilities, and to MODEL for them what it looks like to graciously help around the house, take care of their own spaces, and lend a helping hand to someone who’s feeling overwhelmed.
I don’t choose to “teach life’s tough lessons” as a RESPONSE to a situation that triggers me. It’s important in our family that we take a more intentional approach, teaching values and lessons in a positive way when there isn’t a negative emotional reaction going on. It’s far easier to get a point across and leave a lasting impression regarding a value that’s important when we aren’t shaming our children for behavior.