The surprising emotion you need to show your children every day

April 25, 2013 · 10 comments

happy toddlerBefore I had children, I thought it was of utmost importance to show them every day how much I love them.

I wanted them to feel safe and secure. I wanted them to be confident. I wanted them to know that no matter what they did, they couldn’t break our bond.

Like many things about parenting, I realized I was wrong.

Not about what I wanted for them: the safety, security, confidence, and bond.

I was wrong about what emotion I needed to project to give that to them.

It’s not that love isn’t a necessary part of that — but love is in everything we do with our children. I can look at one of my children eating a Cheerio and be almost overwhelmed to tears with how much I love them.

And that is part of the problem.

Love is a strong emotion. It’s earth-shattering. It’s overwhelming. It’s an emotion that sweeps us off our feet and turns our world upside down.

Like many of the emotions associated with parenthood, it doesn’t convey stability, safety, security, and confidence — even though we think the sheer strength of our love should do this.

So what can we give our children every day to cultivate stability, safety, security, and confidence?

Boredom.

It’s a bit shocking, isn’t it? It feels like the opposite of everything we should do with our kids.

But what emotions are usually associated with parenthood?

Love. Excitement. Pride. Frustration. Anger. Disappointment.

Those are all pretty heavy.

Imagine being tiny and dependent, and seeing the people you rely on go through those emotions every day, over and over and over again . . . often triggered by something you do.

How would that make you feel? Would you feel secure? Would you feel safe? Would you feel confident?

Think again about the things our children do: They take toys from other children. They pull the dog’s tail. They pee on the floor. They scream at something that’s seemingly insignificant. They bite their siblings. They want a cup of water five seconds after you sat down. They do things that drive us nuts . . . right?

And how do you react? With emotion, even love? Is it a reaction that shows how much they rock your world?

Or boredom?

Which shows them you’re keeping them safe? Which shows them their actions aren’t making waves? Do you react with a “ho hum let’s work this out?”

Or something more?

I think boredom is by far the hardest emotion to show my children, but one of the most important. It’s not ignoring them, or dismissing them, or belittling them.

It’s saying, “This is normal. You are normal. I can handle this, and you can handle this. We’re not going to let taken toys and pulled tails and pee on the carpet and screams and bites rock our world. This is part of growing up, and I’m here for you while you go through it all.”

Love — that’s easy. Wiping a nose can make me melt with love.

It’s boredom that’s my challenge every day.

Photo credit:  jessicafm on Flickr

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Vanessa April 25, 2013

I so needed to read this, thank you! I appreciate the perspective you brought about imagining yourself in your kids shoes. I also find allowing my boy to be bored a pretty hard thing to do. I feel constantly like I want to entertain him or interact with him. Partly because it’s just so intense and loud sometimes, I easily move right into distraction. It feels like if I don’t, I may scream along with him, lol. But in the moments I slow down, do nothing, be boring, with him, and we take deep breaths together, I feel so much closer to him.

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2 Suchada @ Mama Eve April 26, 2013

Isn’t it amazing what boredom can do? And to think it’s so underappreciated in our world . . .

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3 Anna April 26, 2013

I have to admit to not understanding this…

They want a cup of water five seconds after you sat down. They do things that drive us nuts . . . right?

And how do you react? With emotion, even love? Is it a reaction that shows how much they rock your world?

Or boredom?

Which shows them you’re keeping them safe? Which shows them their actions aren’t making waves? Do you react with a “ho hum let’s work this out?”

Why would responding with love, by gently giving a little sigh whilst getting that glass of water, or asking them to give you a moment to rest, or permitting them to get one for themselves (and you), make them feel unsafe?

I’m confused as to why a response needs to be one of boredom. There is and will be plenty of time to be bored together, why make it when something is needed (whether water, or help with a conflict as biting would suggest, or a lesson in empathy with the dogs tail – yes you may have said something time and again, but little ones need repetition and consistency, as I’m sure you know…)

Forgive me, I’m not terribly eloquent. I hope you understand my query, and I’d love to hear back from you.

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4 Suchada @ Mama Eve April 26, 2013

I’m my mind, the responses you listed are boring — they’re mundane, everyday responses. I find them challenging, especially with three children. It’s hard for me to see them in need when I love them so much — and it’s hard for me to put aside all the feeling associated with love (guilt, frustration, pride) in my responses.

The reason I chose “boredom” as the emotion is because sometimes even gentleness can turn to polite prodding (at least in my own experience). Children are incredibly sensitive to our emotions, and they notice whenever a hint of frustration creeps into our voices. I know it’s not for everyone, but for me to remember to be bored — to be reminded that all these little everyday frustrations are mundane and repetitive and normal — that’s what helps me not get emotional about the squabbles and mishaps that characterize life with young children.

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5 Jen May 1, 2013

Love this: ” Children are incredibly sensitive to our emotions, and they notice whenever a hint of frustration creeps into our voices.”

We’ve come to the stage where he constantly ask, “Are you happy Mama?” and clearly picks up on tone, facial expressions, sighs and the like. The more mundane my reaction can be, the better off we all are.

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6 Suchada @ Mama Eve May 1, 2013

Thanks, Jen!

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7 B May 4, 2013

It’s funny how things mean different things to everyone! I was also a little confused about the choice of the word boredom at first. I guess it’s just a tool that works for you to achieve what so many of us are trying to get to? I think I might try being bored today! I really enjoy reading your blog and your perspectives on things-thanks!

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8 Simone May 14, 2013

I get this, I didn’t name it as “boredom” though – for myself I call it my more calm “zen” mum self. When telling him not to do things, or removing an overtired slightly hyper man – when he is not eating AGAIN. I go to my “zen” mum place and just act like its normal.. even though I want so badly for him to eat. Actually cultivating this has helped me so much in my day to day and I have gone from completely tense and strung out at the end of the day – to just weary and ready to flop on the couch and read. Never mind how good it was for my son – its been amazing for me. :)

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9 Suchada @ Mama Eve May 14, 2013

A few people have told me “boredom” didn’t resonate them, and I completely understand that. I don’t know why, but for me “calm” and “zen” seem like a bridge too far. I feel like those are often out of my reach, or something that I have to work way too hard to achieve. It’s all the same feeling though, no matter what we call it :)

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10 Simone May 14, 2013

Learning NOT to stress out about tiny little kiddy things…. and everything else. Can def be called anything! Its amazing what you learn about yourself and your ways when you have a new baby in the house. Kinda puts everything under a microscope. Makes me question everything I do sometimes… which can be good and bad. :)

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