You have just received your first phone call, the one every mother dreads and hopes to never receive. The preschool wants you to know that your child is hitting or biting or kicking. That little guy or girl, who has never shown this behavior before, has apparently turned into the class tyrant.
It was in kindergarten when my daughter demonstrated her prowess in tormenting others. I dropped this sweet, little dressed up diva at her elementary school and all was going relatively well for the first few months. Then I received my first phone call. She had kicked a little boy. This led to discussion, punishment, and resolution.
A week went by and then I got the next call; she had hit another student. Discussion, punishment, resolution. A few days went by when the call came once again. This time she had pinched. Incredulity on my part; then discussion, punishment, and what I realized was probably a temporary resolution. Another week went by, and she pulled hair. By this time I was sure my child had become the resident kindergarten bad kid! The funny part (I can say this now) is she never repeated an offense; this creative little five-year-old simply moved onto a new means of inflicting torment.
We rode this wave with her until she stopped.
I’m not even sure why she finally stopped, maybe it was battle exhaustion on both our parts. We continued the punishment, worked with her teacher on multiple plans, varied our approach, and finally got to the other side of the battle. What I realized later is that she was expressing her unhappiness with her new life in what seemed to be the only way she knew how.
As every mother does, I spent most of her kindergarten year avoiding the other moms. The last thing I wanted to feel was the judgment of my parenting skills from her peers’ parents. I was quite sure that my child and I were the focus of many discussions. I knew I had done something terribly wrong as a parent and was sure the world knew as well.
In hindsight, I really hadn’t. I wasn’t the bad mom, and my daughter wasn’t the bad kid either. She was acting out her frustration in a completely inappropriate way and had to learn this truth, but the reality is that every child will have a season (or many seasons) of defiance.
When your elementary-aged child chooses to believe homework is optional and nothing you can do changes that, you’re not a bad mom. He or she is testing the parameters of what is acceptable in the world of education. The grades will take care of this within a short period of time.
When my youngest decided the summer reading book was a worthless endeavor and no cajoling on my part was changing that, my answer to the problem did not make me a bad mom. The week before school started I bought junk food to eat, we wore pajamas for two days, and, lying in her bed, we read the book together. Maybe I didn’t get the personal responsibility part right, but I created a great memory.
The day you discover your teen has lied to you, choosing deception because they are hell-bent on doing something they know you don’t approve of, is tough. You have told your child prior to this time that complete trust is given to them—that is until they prove they no longer can be trusted. It is that moment you let them know they have crossed that line and it will be a long road back. But it’s also imperative you remember a few of the lies you told your parents. It is a normal rite of passage for the teen years and happens to the best of parents.
When your almost-ready-to-leave-home son or daughter stomps away from you, stating in the loudest, most believable voice “I hate you!” merely because of something you just forbade them from doing even though they would be going to college soon… They are not a bad kid and you are not a bad mom, this is just a terribly bad moment. You have been sucker-punched by that child who is your own. But like most other “bad kid” moments, these are temporary. They love you at that moment, though they’ve temporarily forgotten in the heat of their anger.
What every mom needs to remember is that every kid will create his or her own personal havoc.
They are independent humans, with their own personalities, who will make their own choices and display their individual wills. Your job is to teach and guide to the absolute best of your ability. Yours isn’t to make sure they do everything right, lessons are learned when they don’t.
Their job is to explore who they are in the confines of your home under your direction, which will change each and every year. This is how they grow into independent, productive human beings. It is not ours to make a perfect child; they don’t exist. Neither is it ours to be the perfect mom; they don’t exist either.
We must give ourselves grace and give other moms a pass as well. When you feel like you must be doing something horribly wrong, take heart, there is only one perfect parent, God, and as we all know even His kids rebelled. So when you get that call, hold your head up high, ignoring judgment from others, and take the challenge of getting through this “bad kid” season with grit, knowing that this too will pass.
For more encouragement in your mom-ing, start here:
Ask Dr. Zoe – Handling My Teen’s Anger
Stepmother: The Most Difficult Job in a Family
Raising Great Girls: How to Do the Job with Darlene Brock
A Little Encouragement When Motherhood is Disappointing
To the Mom Who’s Lacking Self-Confidence: Do This
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