Courtney and I have been seeking for ways to be better parents. We’ve both spent a lot of time praying, reading, studying, practicing, talking, and doing countless other things to try and be better. It’s not that we’re bad, but we really feel a strong need to become better, especially for Katherine.
One of the things that we could consistently do better is in dealing with her frustrations. She’s started whining and complaining about many things. More often than not, our requests to her are met with “I’m too tired” or “I don’t know how” or a number of variations. We find the responses frustrating because they are self-limiting, and we know she can do what we’ve asked. We don’t try to place expectations on her that she can’t complete, but her responses make us think she is lacking confidence.
One thing we realized a few days ago was that she often uses these responses when she’s faced with an overwhelming task. For example, picking up her toys is often overwhelming to her simply for the size of the mess. We realized that by asking her to pick up her toys in chunks has helped her accomplish these tasks without the usual complaints and frustrations.
Another thing we learned last night through what can only be described as divine intervention was that she responds so much better to our love and support than our rebukes and chastisement. I know, you’re thinking duh, but when it comes to children, that kind of attitude shift is a breakthrough. After an evening of being constantly reminded to do this and do that and don’t do this and don’t do that and pick up this and pick up that, Katherine was finally frustrated, angry, and rebellious. I realized what we were doing to her, and invited her to sit on my lap. I gave her a small kiss, asked if a hug would help her, and when she said yes, I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her tight. I then expressed confidence in her abilities and my love for her and you know what? She hopped down, did everything we had asked with a smile, and did it calmly and perfectly.
The breakthrough for me was President Monson’s talk in the Priesthood Session of Conference where he spoke on anger. Nothing specific really comes to mind right now except to say that President Monson suggested we’d be better people if we removed anger from our lives. From my perspective, and I’m sure from Katherine’s perspective, responding as we did last night is a much healthier and happier solution and one that I can feel comfortable with should the Lord enter my home. I’m sure if He had been sitting in my chair last night dealing with Katherine, He would have held her close as well.
The experience, and another one on Saturday night with my own father, has reminded me gently of the way our Savior corrects, rebukes, counsels, and otherwise handles our own rebelliousness. In spiritual matters, we seem to often respond as my daughter has done in the past, especially when we feel overwhelmed by the size of the tasks before us. In talking with my father and pondering my own situation, I’m realizing that neither my earthly or Heavenly Father has ever attacked me for my failings or my weakness or even my complaints. Rather, when faced with the trials of life, they have gathered me in, held me close, and watched over me.
I received a blessing late Saturday night, and I was deeply touched by the size and warmth of my father’s hands. Such an interesting observation, right? When I’ve given blessings, I’ve always tried to be as light and gentle as possible knowing that the full weight of my hands and arms plus the hands and arms of the others in the circle can become excessive. However, when my dad blessed me, he gently laid his full hands across my head. I’m sure he’s never thought of it before, and to be honest, I never have either, but the proximity and love that flowed through those hands was just as important to me at that time as were the words he spoke.
I would hope that as my children struggle through the meandering roads of life that they would find just as much comfort in my hands and my voice and my love as I’ve found when seeking help from my father.
Like I said, a parenting breakthrough. It’s suddenly all that much more real and important to me.