Steering Into the Skid

If I could just chime in here for a second . . . (hope you don’t mind Mom!) . . . I had a thought regarding a few of the comments on the last post.

I think there’s a difference between “responding” and “initiating” that is critical here. If you find yourself perpetually having to respond to your child’s pleas for affection (in whatever form those pleas take – whether it be fussiness, or outrageous behavior, or annoying clinginess, or whatever) then it means you need to really step it up and try and get ahead of the game. It means that you need to start initiating the hugs and affection FIRST – before the child realizes he needs it. That’s frequently quite a challenge, trying to beat them to the punch! However, if you’re the one initiating, that means you’re filling up their little tanks and you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re reinforcing bad behavior when you do so. And, quite honestly, if you make a concerted effort on that front, you may be very surprised to see what other “discipline problems” clear up on their own. Think of your hugs as pre-emptive strikes, rather than as responses to manipulation.

My husband compares this phenomenon to steering into the skid when your car starts to slide on the snow. Your first impulse is to yank the steering wheel the other direction (“No you may NOT sit on my lap because you’re being whiny and that’s a sin and God hates it.”) You frequently feel like that should fix the problem – but in fact it just takes the skid to a whole new level of out-of-controllness. It often feels counterintuitive, but you need to make yourself steer into the slide and get ahead of it. Often that takes FAR more patience, grace, self denial, and self control than it does to insist on having your standards upheld.

The tricky part is that when a child is being all needy, the form it takes usually is one that tends to rub all your fur the wrong way. You don’t want to give the love, because they’re not being cute; they’re being unlovely. But remember to stoop for these little people.  Give out the hugs when you don’t feel like it. Give out the hugs when the children are not acting very huggable. (Golden rule here: how do you want your husband to treat you when you’re being all needy and frazzled and generally un-cute?)

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22 thoughts on “Steering Into the Skid

  1. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was never be the first to let go of a hug.

    I think I might have heard that one from Mr. Rogers and it has served me well, lo these many years.

  2. Perfect compliment to your mother’s post. Thank you once again for taking a truth of the Gospel and putting feet on it.

    Off to find my shovel because I hear little-people stirrings upstairs…

  3. Well said. I can not count how many times I watch parents succumb to obnoxious and whiny children without batting an eyelash. It leaves me wanting to scream, “Are you kidding me?” (Which then, of course, offers one more opportunity for the Lord to teach me about being judgmental, ug!)

  4. This is exactly right, I was really struggling to put these ideas on the ground. Thanks! I was thinking about this a lot yesterday, especially as it concerns bitty babies. By the time we had the third baby, I realized that staying in tune with the nursling eliminated any notions of “demand” feeding. Watching her cues, taking into account her needs, we had very little demands from her at all and hence far fewer frustrating “my baby is running the show!” moments. Of course, this is much harder to do when one is sleep deprived! This particular child even cued us when she needed to use the potty from her 3rd day out till she was crawling at 6 months and we rarely had a nasty diaper. Now of course, the next child had a whole different set of ideas on what it means to be loved. In any case, I appreciate both of these posts tremendously and have been passing out second breakfast, chores, hugs, and gardening advice as I’ve been typing my grateful response. Thanks for the reminder and the encouragement.

  5. The only time I can think of when a hug would be denied is when a child has done something wrong, knows it, and tries to turn on the charm in order to avoid the spanking or other disciplinary action. I would first dole out the spanking, then after real contrition, dole out the hugs.

    Bekah’s grandfather has a good article called Saturation Love. There is a real need for love based affection. Pore the real love based affection on little girls especially, and they will be less likely to be sitting on some boys lap when they are in Junior high.

    Another time is when a hug may be denied is when I’m having a hot flash, but that is another story. ‘Just give me a minute.’ :}

  6. I really appreciate these two posts by you and your mom. It seems to be a common life issue in every family. I always remember, about 12 years ago, when I was a young, new mom, and my one year old son was so clingy he refused ( very loudly and whinily) to be held by anyone else but me at a family get-together. I remember feeling frustrated at my son for causing a scene and myself for not knowing how to “make him obey”, and i was rejecting him because of my own insecurity in the situation (why did this always have to happen in a group setting?!). Then my oldest sister-in-law came over and sat by me and on the couch and said quietly, “When he knows he has his Mom, he’ll go to anyone else.” And those words have helped me so much through the years with each of my children, and I’ve passed it on to a lot of other new moms , and with some of my children it’s been more of a war for me to do than with others, because of the “Love Metabolism” thing. My children need to know I’m there – ALL THERE, FOR THEM, not just present in body but in mind and heart as well. Then they are at peace. And I think a mother’s peace comes by faith created by the hearing of the Word of God – in particular, knowing we are justified through the redeeming work of Jesus, and not of ourselves, and that frees us up in our vocation, giving us enough of ourselves today to pour it out freely and abundantly on our children.
    Thanks for this post. (I like the “skid” metaphor, pretty good!)

  7. This works wonders!!! We adopted a little one with Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and hugs are the one thing that turned her behaviors around and stopped almost all of the ugly stuff. It is true that it becomes hard to be extra affectionate with difficult little ones, so I made a “hug schedule” for myself in order to ensure she was getting a heap load of them daily! 😉

  8. Well said!!! I have one (my oldest of four w/ a new baby!) in particular who has been in a needy phase lately, and I need to hear this again and again. Since he was a baby, I’ve prayed for a heart filled with compassion for him & his siblings. I’m finding that it isn’t any easier w/ a clingy 8-yr. old than w/ a crying baby. And so, there’s grace!

  9. odd to me that i find some direction to what i have been praying about on the internet. both bekah’s and Mrs. Wilson’s advice are well stated. as a 41 y.o wife to a solo sr. pastor and mother of four tenacious children, under the age of 8, i have been in serious prayer about my lack of love or patience. these types of conversations are not frequent. if love covers a multitude of sins, then i must love more with the gospel and with my actions! Leah, thank you for sharing the words passed on to you, “When he knows he has his Mom, he’ll go to anyone else.” i have been battling the demands of all my children when we get to church. they are just fine one-on-one with folks in other settings, but at church, they clam up and speak not! i will work to make sure they have more of me there…as impossible as that seems. Prov 19;18-19 hit me hard tonight. i pray my irritation with my children, at times, never leads to desiring their death!!!! oh Lord, your ways are not our ways; Is 40:28.
    Thank you for all the great comments and encouragement. i know that i do not ever hug my children enough…it is not in my nature. it is only through the grace and love of Jesus that i am a wife and a mother of 4 precious gifts…the Holy Spirit, He is my teacher, the one who enables me to love as Christ has loved me.

  10. When I first started reading Nancy and Doug’s books (about 10 years) ago I noticed a theme of raising children and disciplining them with love. I loved the way they talked about making sure children’s tanks were filled. I read many examples of how they showed their children love (pajama rides being one of them).
    I also remember thinking that my children (one in particular) were so needy that I did not think I had it in me to fill her up. I also thought “What about obedience?” Shouldn’t I make sure she obeys me no matter what. Isn’t that more important? Even as I thought theses questions I knew in my heart that I needed to pour on the love.
    Ten years later I have seen the difference in my children’s obedience when I fill their tanks and when I get too busy to do so. I love Doug’s book “My Life for Yours.” It is a reminder of how God feels about living for others. I have to read it often!

  11. So how do you get your own “tank” filled if it never has been? If you’re just constantly totally insecure? I’m probably just being selfish to ask it, but it’s crippling to try to feel constantly afraid and unloved. And you can’t be much good to anybody else in that state, either.

  12. Thanks so much for these great reminders. This following Peter Leithart’s post on parenting has made for some great review and parenting exercises! :) I’ve been working extra hard on meditating on the many things I’m thankful for in my kids and lathering on the hugs and kisses. When you guys talk about pouring on the love, are there other methods of doing this that you can suggest besides hugs and kisses? Or are you mainly just speaking of physically pouring on the love? Thanks again!

  13. I’m expecting our first child, but I’m an experienced substitute teacher. When I have a particularily hard day, at noon, I call my mom. Then we pray on the phone and I try to reach out to those kids. The very first thing I do when they come in from recess is to make a positive speach. Somtime I give a terrible kid a hug and ask him if he thinks that he can be a good little kid for the day. This usually surprises them and they start working hard to please you. They know now that you aren’t just a mean Sub, but you’re nice and you want them to be nice to earn a story, or something. No spankings allowed in public schools, but a positive strategy can turn the tide! :) (Hugging dirty kids isn’t always the thing I want to do, but sometimes they need TLC and I feel better about the day).

  14. Thanks, I needed this. Sometimes (often) it’s hard to slow down and hug them. I’m sure it will help me too.

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