Currently my husband’s work travel is on hold until next year. I am preparing myself for the coming trips of 2017. I already have learned so much from his time away this year that I’m hoping that it will be easier on all of us in the future. The biggest change I would like to make is regarding my youngest son. While my oldest son is somewhat tuned into my mood and stress levels and adapts accordingly, my youngest is in a world of his own. Often as my stress levels rise, his behavior and attitude deteriorates. This leads to me raising my voice at him more than I would like. Yelling is great at grabbing attention, but it does little to impact behavior or change circumstances. Often it merely adds fuel to the fire.
There was a week when I found myself getting so frustrated with him that I didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t following directions and had a terrible attitude. Logically it didn’t make sense to yell at him, “You must respect me!” This seemed counterintuitive. Yelling at him was the antithesis of what I was trying to teach him. I had to give him respect and kindness to get that in return, but where to start? I was so frustrated by him that it didn’t feel right to quell my natural feelings. I wasn’t going to be able to connect to him in any real way if I wasn’t being real myself.
Eventually I came up with this strategy. I decided that I was going to hug him and compliment him proactively twice a day, more if possible, before things got stressful. I made a plan to hug him first thing in the morning and tell him some of what I love about him. I did the same when he got home from school. This way I was setting the stage for how we would interact instead of waiting for stress to set the tone.
The results were great. He was like a new kid. He still gave me pushback on certain things and lacked a filter, but it was all in a normal range. I didn’t expect him to change his personality, but he did have an improved attitude when I asked him to do things. He listened better and aggravated his brother less. He actually was pleasant to be around.
I’ll admit, at first it was hard to remember to give him these extra hugs when I felt overextended by my husband’s absences. It was hard to stop that voice in my head that said I shouldn’t bother because no one was going to hug or compliment me. It’s very easy to fall into victimhood when life is stressful. Once I saw that by giving him extra hugs and attention not only made him happier but also made everyone’s life easier, I was more motivated to keep it up. There was even the bonus of love that I felt in giving him those extra hugs. Even though they were brief, the waves of love I felt for him as I held him close started my day off better too.
In life, we truly do get what we give. I plan on giving more love today and hope you will too.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent