If you have young children, you know all about the wide range of emotions that can arise throughout the day. Children look to their closest examples to learn how to respond to circumstances. Absorbing everything they experience is how kids learn to speak, interact and identify their place in the world. As a mom, I need to be a source of guidance, correction and comfort. Here are some tips I use to navigate life with kids and respond to their emotions.
I have 3 kids under the age of four, making me feel like a mommy pinball as I go about my regular routines. Normal household tasks can feel like mountains to conquer, as I’m interrupted 5 or 6 times while washing one load of dishes. Conflict between kids is bad, quiet is good, except too quiet means I need to investigate. In the middle of this, my little ones experience very real emotions within their limited worldviews and circumstances. One of the challenges of being new to mommyhood is how to deal with your kids’ emotions. I still consider myself new; my oldest turns 4 this month so I really feel like I just began “parenting”. I realize I have a lot of influence on my kids’ knowledge of how to behave, how to interact socially, how to listen, how to forgive, how to love, and how to view themselves before God.
1. Correct rather than scold
I love Proverbs. I often read a chapter out of Proverbs to my 4-month-old son. “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown. Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many.” Proverbs strongly encourages children to listen to their parents. This means as a mom I have a responsibility to teach my children wise things to help them grow in understanding. So many opportunities come up during the day to correct my kids. It can be tempting to berate my oldest daughter for doing something wrong but the main outcome of scolding her can be frustration and resentment. When I correct her, I acknowledge my child’s wrongdoing, remind her of the standard I expected, and show her where she fell short. This way, in her toddler mind, she sees where she went wrong and how she can choose the correct response next time. Correction is also a lot easier to do intentionally without getting emotional, whereas scolding can be an overflow of frustrations that my daughter “unleashed”, that didn’t even’t entirely have to do with her.
2. Offer comfort in emotional moments
The other day my husband sent our daughter to her room for hurting her sibling. She was very sad; she realized she had inflicted pain and she was also selfishly frustrated that she had gotten into trouble. While my husband was comforting our middle child, I went to my daughter’s room and held her for a few minutes. I still explained why she was wrong, but I didn’t want her to feel alone while she was so emotional. It’s important to me to be there for each of my kids to comfort and correct, especially when they are sad.
3. Listen to their childish ideas
My daughter loves telling stories and sometimes her ideas take awhile to fully get out. I do my best to patiently listen to her because I want her to continue talking to me as she gets older. If I’m not listening now, why would she talk to me when the issues get bigger? Those cute conversations in the car on the way home from preschool are also great opportunities to tell her about God, how the world works, and answer her questions about why ladybugs have dots.
4. Cuddle often, especially when you’re busy
My oldest commonly wants me to play with her when I’m right in the middle of a project. It’s a good reminder to take a break and connect with my kids. To-do lists will always be there and cleaning will always need to be done, but my babies will only be this age today, and tomorrow they will be older.
5. Point them back to their Creator
Authority and theology are equally tricky for me to exemplify and explain to my kids. I don’t feel like an authority, even though I have a God-given role of authority in my kids’ lives. I know what I believe, but how do I explain theology on a child’s level when they ask questions? To address these areas of parenting, I’ve come up with some responses appropriate for the toddler stage we are in. To encourage obedience, I tell my kids “My job is to take care of you and your job is to obey.” I don’t feel the need to explain further than that, but for me it’s a better response than “because I said so”. My authority in my kids’ lives is God-given and I want them to understand that as soon as possible. Ultimately my kids are accountable before God, and the sooner their little hearts can grasp that, the sooner they will be able to acknowledge God’s involvement in their lives.
These ideas have helped me navigate some convoluted and emotional situations. Throw in a crying baby and a few diapers that need to be changed, and I find myself needing a few easy tips to be intentional with my kids. I don’t want to miss out on any opportunity to help my sweet 4-year-old grow in grace, wisdom, and knowledge of who she was created to be. Kids can be so receptive to intentional guidance that will help shapes their lives and attitudes. Kids want boundaries and structure; I’ve seen this when my 18-month-old misbehaves and looks to me to see “what I’m going to do about it”. For now, we are enjoying the sweet moments, handling the small conflicts, and implementing regular routines for our days and nights; where after being tucked in my daughter wants me to tell her to “dream dreams as sweet as you” every single night.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 is a great promise for moms in the midst of parenting.
How do you handle your kid’s emotions? Where do you go for guidance?
Katie enjoys all things creative; DIY projects, photography, decorating and family adventures. She feels blessed to be a stay-at-home mom with 3 kids and many artistic outlets.