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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

If Momma Ain't Happy ...

(from my Practical Parenting series in the Tuesday edition of The Daily Review Atlas)

You know that old saying, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't no one happy?". It's true. Ask my children. They know full well when and if I'm in a bad mood. And they know to scatter on said days. All children do really, but I got news for myself and all the mommas out there. Watch yourself.

Child development experts agree that children draw their cues for appropriate behavior and reactions directly from their parents. Meaning the more upset and frustrated the parent is, the more upset and frustrated a child will be. So, it turns out, what we used to think of as nothing more than a lighthearted wives tale is a very powerful truth. A parent's mood directly influences their child's. For both the good and the bad.

If you don't believe me stand around some school morning and observe the students getting dropped off. The children who had a relaxed, well prepared morning get sent off with a kiss on the cheek and smile on their face. The children who's morning was chaotic are forced to face their school day frustrated, tearful and crabby. Which child do you think is more prepared for success that day?



The parents who yell at their student for problems such as running late, skipping breakfast or oversleeping, I believe, are actually hindering their child's progress for the morning. Watch how fast bad moods can travel. When a frustrated mom, who has spent her morning berating a disagreeable child, sends him off to class he is crushed, discouraged and hurting. Chances are he, in turn, will misbehave in the classroom, hurt another child which frustrates the teacher who has a classroom full of students counting on her to maintain a positive classroom experience for all of them. Even though she now feels just as moody at Timmy's mommy.

Of course the entire atmosphere of the classroom isn't hinged on Timmy's antics. But can you see how one bad mood affects another which can affect another? It happens. Foul moods perpetuate and we must understand this fact before we as parents act out on our feelings. That is called maturity. And parenting demands we become well acquainted with it.

Of course mornings are rushed. Absolutely our children drive us insane. Yes, you do deserve a minute of silence to hear yourself think. But understand how we go about getting what we need is imperative. Sure you can choose to yell at your child and they will probably get the message but instead of defusing a situation your name calling, swearing or threatening only accelerates angst in both yourself and those around you. Being in a bad mood and causing your children to be in a bad mood only increases stress levels and hardly ever helps a situation get better.

I witnessed a young child in a store recently. She dawdled profusely (which by the way is completely developmentally appropriate) and her mother only got angrier and angrier with every minute that passed. I and the entire store could hear every exchange the duo had. "No, you can't have that! You're making me late! Put that down! Oh my word! I told you I was in a hurry! Hurry up! Don't touch that. Come on or you'll be late for school!". On and on the ranting continued and as it did it was obvious that both mom and daughter were getting more and more anxious.

When mom checked out in front of me and exited the store the customers around me exchanged that, "Thank God they're gone" look. But no sooner had their eyes rolled than the mother reentered the store, slammed a DVD down on the counter said her daughter had taken it. She turned on her heel and stormed out. The little girl, standing just outside the doors, was crying. Mom grabbed her arm, yanked her around and yelled a hearty slur of obscenities.

This is not a unique story. You've seen the same version. Maybe you've even had a similar horrifying experience.

Say what you want about how the child should be disciplined, I would argue that the entire event could have significantly been prevented. It starts with mom's mood. Her foul I'm-running-late-and-now-I'm-ticked-at-the-world attitude set the stage. If mom would have stopped rushing the child, choose not to yell at and ignore the child in the store its possible she may have been able to explain that the DVD wasn't on the shopping list that day, or add it to the child's birthday list. Sometimes kids just want someone to listen to them, to acknowledge that they are seen and what they are interested in is interesting to the grownup who loves them.

I imagine this DVD stealing child was dropped off at school after this incident at the store. With a broken heart, aching arm and tear stained face she was sent off to grow and develop and learn. How do you think it went for her?

Our children will be naughty. They will test our limits. It's going to happen. Parenting is a hard, challenging, relentless job. It wears me out. It makes me crabby. And sometimes I'm crabby and short tempered and out of patience. I'm a mother. I'm human. But I must recognize that the mishandling of my feelings has the power to discourage my children. Sure its fun to say "If momma ain't happy" but there's nothing comedic about hindering my child's progress because I can't get my act together. Why? Because I'm the mother and I said so! That's why!




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2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the reminder and poignant illustration.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're a great momma Tana! Thanks for reading my blog! I love when you comment!

    ReplyDelete

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