Let’s face it and be real here. Parenting is not easy. In fact, it is the hardest job we will ever have. No one gives us an instruction manual when our children are born. Fact is, they can’t because there isn’t one. Each child is different and each scenario with each child within each family is unique. Good parenting is also not “instant” and “without failure”. We don’t know what we don’t know. We must get “on the job training” for this position that is ongoing and often “on the fly”. Truthfully, we will faulter and miss the mark just like we will find we stumble into a what or a how that is good and works….A LOT.
Yes, there are basic principles and guidelines but all in all, parenting is a whole heap of winging it as we wade through the new and never before experiences to learn how to parent and train our children in the way they should go. We are maturing, learning and growing right along with our kids. I’m not going to lie to you. There are cloudy days, windy days and even stormy days. But there are also days full of sunshine when the sailing is easy. Those tend to be far more and much brighter than you may think while in the midst of the cloudy, windy or stormy days.
Sometimes, parenting will mean we will have to make hard choices. Choices that our heart and mind does not easily embrace, but are necessary for the good of our child, our family, ourselves and the future. And then sometimes, it’s a breeze with no confusion as we ease through one situation to another. Every day brings us moments of “I have never been here before.” with us not knowing what to do or say or how to act and react. That’s okay. It’s all part of the process of learning to parent and our children learning from us. We have to give ourselves and our children grace in the process of learning.
I must also say, contrary to what some may believe, parenting doesn’t really stop when our kids reach 18 years old or graduate from school. It is a lifetime position that we take on from the very first. We still “parent” our kids ling after the wonder and wander years subside. Our position and job description changes a bit as the hands-on guidance, instruction and leadership decreases to a lesser degree as they step up and into their own just like we did. That is the goal, right? To prepare them for adulthood, training and raising them to be an asset to their world and step into their own identity and splendor? That’s how I see it anyways. Truthfully, our children never stop needing us and looking to us for an example. It all just changes in how it looks and how we all go about it. Our role of “parent” shifts from authority to assistant. And here again, we have to give ourselves and our children grace in the shift.
So moms and dads, let me encourage you to stand in the knowledge and understanding that as you grow and learn to parent well, you are not alone and without help or hope. There are solutions and places you can turn to when in need of more to go farther. There is help in times of trouble and sources of encouragement in times of discouragement.
We need wisdom to impart wisdom. Wise counsel can be found in friends and others who are like-minded with compatible values and beliefs. So many in our small part of the world may have been there, done that and are on the other side of the lesson in similar circumstances. This is a great avenue for insight, workable solutions and encouragement if we are willing to lay down our pride and fears, share our hearts and situations honestly. Just being real and vulnerable, asking for advice, help and inspiration can be a solution all on its own.
Without a doubt, wisdom and revelation can be obtained through prayer and most certainly through the word of God. In fact, I personally think these are the sources where all wisdom comes from, even when it comes to us from a vessel with skin on. The word of God is the closest thing to an instruction manual we will ever find for parenting and for living. If you need an answer to a question or a solution to a problem, it is in His word…somewhere. If you just need encouragement, you’ll find that in the pages too.
One of my favorite quotes (shown above) is by the greatly admired Maya Angelou. She said, “When you know better, you do better.” Isn’t that where we all are and what we are all doing? Yes, I think so. I think we are all reaching for the “know better” so we can “do better”. …with parenting and with life in general.
As every parent knows (or at least should know), children are basically emotions driven. They are not born with the ability to process and display emotions productively. It’s up to us to teach them how to process their emotions and in turn, their attitudes, appropriately and with filters in place. This goes beyond just socially acceptable displays of how they are feeling at any given moment. It is a life skill that will serve them well in public and private.
Don’t get me wrong in what I’m saying here. Emotions are not wrong and should be expressed. After all, they are a God given processor for things we experience or encounter personally. They serve us well. But….unfiltered emotions left alone to grow untamed and be used for the purpose of manipulation serves to only create problems. Let’s face it. Whining, fits of anger or acute sensitivity to events and surroundings is just not a productive lot for anyone.
So guess what we’ve been addressing in the Moore household? Yes, unfiltered emotions from our little guy. It’s something that we have been dealing with on and off for some time now. Recent and sudden changes in our lives have taken their toll on his little mind and emotions and I can see that he’s had a very difficult time processing all of it and how he feels about them. We’ve been getting outbursts, expressions of anger from frustrations he just doesn’t know how to process and whining when he doesn’t get what he wants or thinks is fair. Normal for some and at an earlier age. Not normal for us and at almost 7 years old. He’s pretty much always been very loving and kind and happy and yes, pretty cooperative. That’s why I’m fairly certain it is the changes that have occurred in our lives over the past 12 – 18 months that has triggered this new behavior. He’s not out to be mean, manipulative or disobedient. He just needs help processing and addressing in a positive way.
After a fast, loud and grind on my last nerve morning of continual whining earlier this week, I was at my wits end. This was becoming a daily occurrence. Nothing seemed to work. Not talking or coaxing in the right direction. Not grounding or time outs. Not repeated threats of punishment. Nothing! I had to find a solution that would help my son learn how to process his emotions productively and how to filter and funnel them into positive behaviors and attitudes. Then, I had an “idea” that I hope will teach him how to do just that and to hopefully help all of us learn that there is a cost when we allow our emotions to control us.
Meet Crabby Crab!
This funky little fella may not be pretty but he’s been pretty effective so far. He’s actually an independent art project that my son had made earlier in the school year. I had put this creative little sea critter in our learning center because my child had made it for me and of course I loved it.
When he was having his “emotions driven” morning, I found myself tempted to…dare I say?…. banish him to his room forever with no TV, games or anything fun…EVER! Instead, I asked his dad to take him out to his furniture workshop with him while I simmered down and collected my own emotions. Honestly, they were quite scattered and running amuck.
While I was cooling down, thinking about the whole situation…and praying (A LOT), I saw the crab sitting atop the school materials cart just a waving his little red claws at me. Then it hit me. Crabby Crab! Thank you Lord. A behavioral teaching tool that taps into my son’s love of games and can be used for the good of all of us. And Don’t Feed Crabby Crab! was born. The “tool” is very much like a “cuss jar”. Anyone ever had or seen one of those? Well, the concept is the same, just on a kid’s level.
Since I heard the guys coming in from the workshop, I very quickly wrote a few things on the little boxy dude so as not to forget and to explain in quick words what he was and made a slit in the tape on his back. Not the best or most thought out plan of action but sometimes, you have to move fast.
Here’s how Crabby Carb works. He’s a hungry little crusty critter but he’s also greedy…..and such a picky eater. You see, Crabby Crab only eats money….we call them crabby coins. Specifically, he eats nickels, dimes and quarters. And he doesn’t give them back…ever. However, he only gets to eats crabby coins whenever any of us are being “CRABBY”. If any of us (yes, including my husband and myself) is crabby, whiney, has an angry outburst, or displays negative emotions in a hurtful or destructive way, we have to feed Crabby Crab a meal of crabby coins in an amount to be determined by the others.
The object of our ongoing game is to NEVER FEED CRABBY CRAB. When you do, it costs you. So when either one of us is on the verge of feeding this greedy little Gus a meal, one of us will say, “Don’t feed Crabby Crab! He’ll take your money until you have none. And then he’ll run.” That’s the trigger to make us aware of our emotions, behavior and attitude. Then we sit down to talk about what is going on, why we feel like we do and how to express our emotions in a positive way.
It’s actually fun, make that funny. Usually, when someone says our little game rhyme, we’ll start to giggle, which defuses the current atmosphere of negative emotions. Even the dog was told not to feed Crabby Crab just moments ago, when she was startled awake from dream when the Little Man started petting her and growled him. That brought lots of giggles….and explanations of why she didn’t have any coins or know what money is.
So far, no one has had to feed Crabby Crab any crabby coin meals. If we do find that Crabby Crab should eventually get full, the meals he’s consumed will be donated to a church or a worthy charity to feed children real food. Win-Win!
There you have it. A silly but working solution that’s helping us and it may just help you or someone you know dealing with unbridled emotions in their home. I invite you to take this idea. Make it your own to use in your own family dynamics. And by all means, have a bit of fun with it.
From my at home world to yours!
Dig for dinosaurs, that is!
My son has learned the word “paleontologist” and what it means from one of his favorite Nick TV shows. Of course, he had to be one for the day.
Almost every toy dinosaur figure he has was buried in sand and dug up, buried again and dug up again….and again….again.
He took time out of his important scientific discovery work to educate me on each one, telling me their species name, their diet classifications and their basic anatomy.
Do your kids teach you about their interests? Tell me about it.
I’m getting real from my at home world!
Won’t you get real with me?
Ginger Moore, The At Home Woman