• J Mess

GENTLE HANDS

Sounds like the next big boy-band hit song.


I remember when I first got promoted to supervisor at work my boss told me that most importantly I was a role model now. The people who worked for me would be looking to me to see how I reacted, how I handled stressful situations, how I interacted with others. And they would model their behavior after mine. If I showed up late to meetings, they would think it was acceptable to do that also. If I yelled at other teammates (I never yelled, maybe just talked sternly), they would think they could do that also. So the big takeaway was that I had to be extremely self-aware of my own behavior at all times. And don't kid yourself, it's a lot of responsibility and a daily exercise in patience and self-control. Of which, I don't have much.


I'm constantly shocked at how many correlations I see between being a leader in the corporate world and being a mom. There are so many lessons I've learned that apply directly to what I now do every day. Thank goodness I went to that leadership conference that made me cry.

So stay with me now as we work through this. It seems that Nathan has been hitting. When I tell him no, he gets very frustrated, screams "NO!" and hits himself in the face. When another child was going down the slide before him at the park, he tried to hit her. If someone takes his toy or his pacifier, he hits. Strangely sometimes he hits just so that when you look upset, he can give you a hug. And I know that this is probably just a phase and that little kids hit. A lot of them do. They don't understand personal space. They don't understand sharing. They can't fully express themselves and some of them have very big personalities for such small bodies. While I am not overly concerned that Nathan is going to grow up to be a bully, if I can do anything to nip this behavior in the bud, isn't it my job as a mom to try?


What is causing Nathan to hit? He's obviously unable to tell me. Is he seeing other children hitting? Are other children hitting him? Is this caused by something I'm doing? Now, I am definitely not saying that I beat myself, my child, my husband or my friends. Although sometimes in my head I do, but you didn't hear that from me. But there had been times in the past that Nathan would throw food or kick me in the face on the changing table and in my complete blind frustration I'd give his hand or foot a little warning tap. I hadn't even given it a second thought until I realized he was hitting. Was he modeling his behavior after mine?


It's very easy to become frustrated with toddler behavior. They are literally wired to do everything possible to piss you off. You have to be some kind of saint to deal with this everyday. When my parents were visiting, my dad witnessed Nathan try to climb up a piece of furniture, rip the tablecloth off, stick his finger in a socket, touch the cat litter, then start to unspool the entire roll of toilet paper all in a span of about 90 seconds. It was like watching an obstacle course of American Mischief Warrior. We just couldn't believe how quickly Nathan went on to the next mischievous task after being told NO! It was like Nathan had a running list in his mind of exactly what he wasn't supposed to do and when he got in trouble, he'd just go on to the next one.


Trust me when I tell you we all wanted to smack him.

But now I am very aware of my reactions to his behavior. And he is very aware of my reactions as well. Instead of immediately reacting when he does something that upsets me, I take a very deep, full breath, and in that moment decide how I want to react in a way that conveys to him that I am not happy with what he is doing, but doesn't display behavior that I wouldn't want him copying. And do you know what he does every damn time? He immediately takes the same deep sighing breath, and smirks at me like the stinker that he is. When he hits me or himself, I take his hands and show him how it's nice to interact with others with gentle hands, and we say "gentle hands, let's hug instead of hit." Sometimes I don't even understand where the patience I am displaying is coming from. It's like I'm having an out of body experience and the real me is cursing, yelling, and hitting in the corner while someone tells me "gentle hands." No we know where he gets it from...



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