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October 26, 2005


Imperfect Mommy

My almost four year old daughter is in the same stage right now. The total meltdown when someone corrects her, and then the need for apologies for making her sad. The standard comment now is, "But Mommy, I thought you loved me" uttered through a quivering lip. I think I have the title for the book. Now I need a publisher!


"No Matter What" by Debi Gliori is a perfect book for that sort of thing. The little one asks his mama all sorts of questions about whether or not she'd still love him in various situations.

I think that, as mamas, we're always walking a line between that tone of voice being harsh enough and not too harsh.


My mother gave me some advice that her mother gave her, which my wife and I try to use. I think what might have traumatized your little guy was that both parents were yelling at him. I agree that playing in the middle of the road is very serious and getting him safe is the highest priority and you don't have time to figure out who is going to say what. But in the future, if you can, try to give your child an emotional haven in one of the parents. I think for a child when both parents are angry their whole world comes crashing down around them. A little good cop bad cop, might be better. Not to manipulate him, but so that the point can get across, and he still feel loved and supported by the people in his life that mean the most to him.


I believe that kids' feelings matter, and I try to treat our children with respect as much as possible every day. I really see that there are fully valuable human souls in childrens' bodies. In my view, their feelings are no less important than those of an adult. That doesn't mean that they know what is best, but just that their souls are fully human. They have adult-sized emotions in kid-sized bodies. At all ages, they deserve and need love and kindness and respect.

I can see that you believe similar things in many ways. You want to be consistently loving toward your child. That is good.

That being said, I think that you are were absolutely right to speak sharply with your child in both cases you described. In each case, you were dealing with an important safety issue. You can't mess around with such things, and you would not be doing your child any favors if you did.

I once had a cat who seemed inordinately afraid of cars. In my childish desire to help this cat (I was still a teenage child at the time), I held and petted the cat and eventually taught her not to fear cars so much. However, the unfortunate end for that cat was being hit by a car. No kidding. So it is quite literally true that you do nobody any favors by sparing them from fear of things that they should fear for their own protection!

Don't be so hard on yourself. Just correct your child, sharply if necessary, and then give him/her lots of hugs and as much of an explanation as is needed when the immediate danger has passed and the lesson has been learned. You can even apologize if you think you were sharper than necessary -- but give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Your child needs to know what dangers to stay away from, and in no uncertain terms, and you're the most important teacher your child has. Discipline that proceeds from love and is not excessive or abusive is a gift to your child. A child without that discipline will face much unnecessary trouble in this world. So discipline your child when a lesson must be learned (in our house, a brief "time out" is usually sufficient, or sometimes just the threat of a time out.) Then follow the discipline with a hug and wipe away any tears, and make sure the child knows he/she is loved. That's all it takes.

In this life there will be pain along with the joy. You can't spare your child all of the pain, and if you try to do so you will be cheating them out of limits and guidance that they need. But you can make sure that your child never doubts that he or she is loved.


Another good one:

When Mommny Was Mad by Lynne Jonnell


Oh, I live in this territory! Sabrina routinely insists on apologies for having hurt her feelings for reprimanding her. It makes me mental. And, to be honest, a little harsh sometimes.

And have I got books for you! (All purchased from Scholastic, of course!)

Mama do you Love Me? and Papa Do You Love Me by Barbara M. Joosse

Would You Love Me by Andrea Wayne von Konigslow

I Love to Cuddle by Carl Norac

I'll Always Be Your Friend by Sam McBratney

No, David! by David Shannon

The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

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