Category Archives: Traits
Sometimes I’m having a rough day… I got some bad news, or am feeling extra emotional or vulnerable. After all, mothers are humans too. Maybe I’ve had an argument with someone and it seems too difficult to even attempt to patch things up. At times like this, I invariably look at my kids and see them having fun, playing, enjoying the simple things in life. The thought comes to me, “How are they going to do when they grow up and have to face these things that life will surely bring them?”
My hope and prayer has always been that they will be able to see their lives and face their future with a positive attitude, one of hope and overcoming. There are those throughout history who have had an easy life, but never made a name; they remain unknown. Then there are others who faced great difficulties; the deck of life seemed to be stacked against them, yet they overcame. They didn’t give up and they are known and admired today.
I want my children to grow up to be “overcomers”—those who do not see themselves as helpless victims to every obstacle: someone’s bad attitude, their own “bad-hair” day, or any negative person who might come along and give them a hard time. I want my kids to grow up to smile in the face of adversity, knowing that the sun will shine again and that things will start looking up. I want them to refuse to accept defeat when their heart tells them that anything is possible.
Then I realize that a lot of that is up to me. How do I handle adversity, bad news, a grumpy co-worker, or a tiring flu? Do I play the victim and blame circumstances or others? Or do I try to smile, even if through tears or a million “what-if’s” bombarding my mind? Do my children see me “going under”, or “rising above”?
We all know that our children will eventually be at the point of making their own decisions. There is not much that we as parents can do about that then…but there is a lot we can do about it now, while they are with us. Today, when they are our little shadows, following us everywhere, watching and mimicking each action and attitude, let us work hard to help them develop positive attitudes, by manifesting those attitudes ourselves, with positive actions to match.
Just as there is a great variety in adults, there are many different kinds of children. There seems to be a marked difference between some children in how they think, act, and react. It is obvious in some that they do things from their heart. This is the little boy who will see another child crying, and offer the child his favorite toy to make him smile, not realizing until later that he no longer has the toy. This kind of child is fully consumed at the moment with the other person, and the fact that they wanted to make that person happy.
Other children are more “mind” oriented—calculating the pros and cons of their actions or requests that they are given. These ones are more often than not, a bit more self centered—not completely selfish, but they do think something through in relation to how it will affect them and their surroundings and even belongings. This is the one who will see another child crying and look around for something else to give, or run to his parent/caretaker to mention the problem.
Some children, though, are very self-focused, to the point that their needs and desires are all they see and consider when making a request or when thinking about their options. They see how something will affect themselves, and only themselves—not anyone else who might also be affected by the action. This is the child who will grab that last piece of pie, although it is his second and he knows that little sister hasn’t had her first yet. This is also the child who, if this tendency is not guided and reshaped, will grow into the adult who will stop at nothing to get their own way and climb to the top, even to the hurt of others. “Me first” is a natural human tendency, yet some seem to have it much stronger than others, even as a child.
Every child needs to feel loved and understood; every child wants that assurance that someone is there completely for him/her and will not neglect them and their needs. How do you help those children who seem to have more of an analytical nature to do things more from the heart? It is great that a child can think something through before acting, but it can become a hindrance if after thinking it through, they back out of something they can or should do because they deem it “not worth it”.
It is vitally important to help a child to see how their decisions and actions affect others. This can be accomplished with a question like, “Honey, did you notice that there was only one piece of pie for each person? You have already had a piece, and little Jenny hasn’t had hers yet.”
Usually a child will understand that, because pretty much every child has an inborn sense of fairness. If they are a stronger character though, they might just say, “I want it anyway.” How do you encourage a child to think more about others than oneself?
I think we have all heard the Golden Rule: treat others the way we would want to be treated. This is an easy concept for even a young child to understand. Bring up the “how would you feel” aspect of it. We can ask, “How would you feel if you came to get your pie and Jenny had already eaten it?”
A question such as this one will appeal to their inborn sense of fairness, and eventually it can grow to become a thing of the heart, where a child automatically puts himself in the other’s shoes before acting or reacting.
I think this is the hope that all parents share: to raise our children to both think and feel—to be solution oriented and yet empathic, to think “outside the box” and yet still be aware of the effects their actions have on others—and to choose to always treat others the way they want to be treated.
A writer acquaintance of mine (a brilliant mother of five), creator of the website “Manna for Moms” sometimes posts a “Question of the Day” on Facebook, usually related to parenting.
A couple weeks ago she posted this one:
QOTD: What are (at least) two of your strengths and only one weakness, as pertaining to being a parent?
I clicked on the comment box and thought for a second. Then I thought for a minute. Then two. Nothing came. I couldn’t think of even one strength I have as a parent, much less two. Maybe if she had switched the order, two weaknesses and a strength, I could have come up with something.
I minimized the page, figuring I’d come back to it later. I never did.
It’s not that I couldn’t think of anything. It was that every possible “strength” I thought of had to be qualified, meaning it didn’t really count.
I thought of putting, “I try to keep my eye out for ‘teachable moments'” but then I remembered all those teachable moments that passed by without me taking notice of them or making the most of such times. So I couldn’t put that down.
I thought of putting, “I try to teach my kids practical skills and let them help me with jobs” but then I thought of all those skills I have yet to teach my kids, and the things I probably should have helped them master by now which I haven’t. I couldn’t put that down either.
A few more things came to mind, yet each one had a “but” to it, a point that disqualified that act or mindset as a strength. (Maybe I could have put down that I’m a realistic parent.)
I copied down the question as I really did want to answer it, but even now, weeks later, I’m having a difficult time coming up with anything.
I try to notice things and be “in the moment” as a parent but I fail in that all too often.
I love my kids and try to show them, but often my frustrations or impatience get in the way of that.
Then I realized the question wasn’t, “In what area are you absolutely perfect as a parent?” If that was the case, no parent could answer it. But we don’t have to be perfect. We just have to try.
I looked back over my responses and noticed that every one of them had the word “try.” Yes, there are different levels of “try” and some of the lower levels are more a cop-out than an honest effort. But when we, as parents, are making that “honest effort” sometimes that’s the best we can do.
I think it’s enough for our children. And should be enough for us too.
My two strengths as a mother?
- I love my kids more than anything in this world.
- I try … and when I fail (and I do every day) … I try again.
- I need to tell them every day that I love them, and that sometimes the best thing we can do is just keep trying.
My mother’s stories were just the best, especially when she told us stories of when she was a child growing up. Most of the stories were very funny, and some were exciting or scary. One story I remember that she would tell was when she was a child and went to a camp. She woke in the morning to a gigantic spider, right at the foot of her bed. She said that she had never seen a spider so large, and she did not know whether to scream, or quickly jump out of bed; so she just stayed there, frozen in fear, rooted to the spot. I do not remember what happened next; I think perhaps one of her sisters or one of the other campers “rescued” her.
Besides hearing the previous story more than once, my older sister shared with me a dream that she claimed was recurring. She discovered two spiders (daddy-long-legs I think) and began to pester them. Then the spiders began to grow, bigger and bigger; once they were bigger than her, they started to chase her.
My own experiences with those eight-legged-often-hairy creatures started quite young as well. I was on a friend’s front porch, waiting for her to come out and play, and saw a spider climbing up the wall. Absent-mindedly, I began creeping my fingers towards it. The spider stopped, and before I could react, it turned around and raced up my arm! Another day, another front porch, I noticed a spider with something funny on its back. I touched the little ball with a stick, and suddenly there were tiny spiders crawling everywhere. It was the spider’s egg sack. I was horrified, to say the least.
As much as I tried to get over my fear of spiders as I grew, the whole “mind over matter” thing just didn’t work in regards to spiders. I see a spider, I get a “euky” feeling all over (a.k.a. the shivers) and I call the nearest knight in shining armor to rescue me.
We all know that some things are hereditary: looks, height, metabolism, etc. “It’s in the genes.” They say. Many other things are “adopted” by children, such as a mother’s mannerisms, or their father’s particular gait.
Raising my children, I have noticed that my daughter thinks a whole lot like me. I have obviously never told her how my thought processes work, yet seeing some of the things that she does, and listening to her speak, when she lets me know how she came to a particular decision or mindset, I realize, “Wow. That’s just the way that I used to think when I was young.”
Mindsets, or the way the mind operates, then, seem to be hereditary as well. Of course, my two sons (though younger so I can’t really tell for sure) don’t seem to think quite the same way as I do. On the other hand though, watching them and their natural penchant for trying to fix things and figure out the way they work—that’s their daddy to a tee.
A family friend used to joke that my siblings and I were all afraid of spiders because our mother was. Who knows? Maybe it is true.
I thought to put it to the test. Is fear hereditary, like looks and thought processes? I decided that from the time my children were very small, I would only say positive things about spiders. After all, there had to be something good about them. Let’s see, they kill mosquitoes and…they kill mosquitoes, and they kill mosquitoes. I could not quite say that they were furry and cute, but I did make every earnest attempt to be positive about spiders upon every mention, and I was sure never to cry out for a knight in shining armor when my children were around.
Nevertheless, my two older children showed every sign of the same arachnophobia that I had. I had the highest hopes of them being brave and fearless at the sight of various insects, arachnids and rodents. Yet when I saw them running for help because of an ant, I wondered if perhaps it was a hopeless cause; maybe I would have to resign myself to the fact that there was nothing I could do.
My youngest son was at the crawling stage. He crawled everywhere. He was headstrong and fearless. I happily discovered just how fearless he was the evening that I found a ladybug crawling up my pant leg. I picked it up and showed it to my three kids. The older ones kept a safe distance, but the 15-month-old poked it, grabbed it and was about to taste it as well when I came to the little insect’s rescue. We took the ladybug to the porch and set it on a plant. Back in the living room, I saw a spider, one of those little hopping ones, making its way across the floor. My kids spotted it too. The older ones made a wide berth around it, while the youngest crawled straight up to it and picked it up. He squeezed it and dropped it and picked it up again.
I came to two great conclusions:
- Fear doesn’t necessarily have to be inherited
- My son is going to be a knight in shining armor