Sunday, May 8, 2011

How to Deal with Non-Compliance: A Mothering Lesson from My Little Girl

"C'mon, Luke," Nina said as she gently took his hand and guided him to where I, a very frustrated Mommy, stood with teeth clenched, taking deep breaths, after my son had not only obviously not listened to me again, but had also run away from me and, worse, run out into the road without stopping, looking nor listening (something we have been drilling over and over ever since a very scary Halloween night.)

So, as my little girl (who did stop, look and listen), guided her brother back to me, a Mommy-on-the-brink-of-yelling-yet-again, I exhaled and thought, "She's so sweet and so wise.”

Yes, as I watched Nina simply walk to Luke, take his hand, smile and use a brief word or two of direction—and, moreover, as I witnessed Luke comply, with a smile on his face even—I realized, “I could have done that.”

In fact, I have done that. With Luke at times. With my other children, too. But, mostly, with other people's kids,  When I used to work at schools, on a cruise ship, at a day care, at a camp,… I almost always remained peaceful, direct and kind when dealing with children. And, usually, it worked,

Then, when I first began my parenting journey, I did the same. Indeed, I was even known to say that I do not allow yelling in my home.

However, over the past five and a half years, as responsibilities and challenges increased—especially those borne from Luke’s unique nuero-pscyhological make-up—that proven firm, but loving, approach  that I had employed successfully for years when working with other people's children was too often superseded by, well, yelling, brashness and, in general, uncharitable Mommy behavior with my own children. You know, the stuff that sometimes works for a moment, but rarely in the long run.  The words and actions that might stop an undesirable behavior when Mommy is looking, but rarely help develop good habits and responsible choices overall.  The errors of my way that make me “human”, at best, and just like other screaming ninny moms, at worst.

And, so it was today, on more than once occasion, that I found myself mothering quite poorly despite it being Mother’s Day.

Then, along came my Little Nina, at a mere almost-four years old, modeling a course of actions and words that embodies some of the wisdom of the ages:

  1. Act more than you speak.
  2. Expect positive results.

Yes, Nina’s simple redirection of Luke demonstrated that:

  • kindness and respect often receive far better responses than harshness and demands.
  • actions, especially firm, intent, yet gentle ones, often speak louder than words.
  • a few well-selected words, spoken in a non-threatening tone, often beget more positive results than a long-winded request or, worse, a frustrated tirade.
Now, I admit that Nina doesn’t always display such acumen,  I also concede that am fallible and can't expect to always do so either. In fact, it took me almost the entire day to truly let the wise modeling that Nina did today sink in. 

But, sink in, it has.  And, tomorrow, I intend to head the lesson:  When faced with non-compliance, I will try to remember to stop what I am doing, look at what is happening and listen to the voice in my head that tells me to do as Nina did,  to react with peace, kindness and directness, inviting compliance.

It is with this thought I go to bed smiling.  For there may have been no cards nor tangible gifts from my children for me this Mother’s Day (beyond generous shares of heart-warming and appreciated hugs, kisses and well wishes, and, those, in themselves are immeasurable treasures), but there was Nina's reminder of how to be a more effective mom.  That reminder is something I am determined to really hold onto!

Thanks for the lesson, my sweet girl!


Kate said...

i am thankful for your candor on this hits home. your daughter has something to teach me as well.
thank you!
God bless!


Rashi said...

I am really proud of your daughter. Some times kids teaches and makes us a effective mom.Check out my blog -

Diana said...

What an excellent post. Thank you and your daughter--I needed this today.


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