Written by Esperanza DeLaLuz
As the oldest daughter in a large family, with a mother that was absolutely devoted to her calling as a mother, I was blessed to feel fairly comfortable when I began to have children of my own. I’d had many opportunities to practice nurturing skills at home with my younger siblings, and my mother often talked to me about her philosophy of mothering and her great joy in it. I wanted nothing so much as to be a mother myself.
As an adult, I continued my education in the social work field, and raised my own family. Eventually, I also became a foster parent. This awesome opportunity is not for the faint-hearted. It can be very demanding and very frustrating. It is your “job” to mother the foster child in a way they likely have never actually experienced, and yet do nothing to interfere with the ability of the child to bond with the natural parents should they become able to once again take up the role of full-time parent. It is a fine line to walk and too many foster parents resign themselves to the role of caretaker and do not try to assume the role of a parent, because it is just too difficult to truly mother a child that you may lose at any time. I do understand this, but for me it was never possible to do it that way.
It is easier to do if one recognizes that “mother” need not be an exclusive role in a child’s life. In fact, studies have shown that the more positive and loving adult influences in a child’s life, the higher the likelihood of their own happiness and success in life. Therefore, a foster mother is a “second” mother, not the primary mother, but can have an effect that may be far ranging later in life. One foster mother told me, “You have to consider that if they graduate from high school, and they are not in jail, or on drugs . . you won!" The foster mother may never actually know the positive influence, but once in a great while one hears of child who remembered something of what they experienced in your home and it helped them.
Awhile back, a former foster child called and told me that she had gotten caught up in drugs and that when she hit rock bottom and wanted a lifeline to change she went to a local church (not my particular church) to find a God-fearing family that would help her straighten out. She stuck to it with them, and their pastor, and ended up off drugs, happily married, with two children. That was when she called to tell me that it was because she had lived with us (for only six months) that she knew the kind of place to go to get help to straighten out her life. It felt really good.
The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation.
-- James E. Faust
By Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Atmosphere CouncilMom
They all do it. You know - that thing that drives you up a wall! No matter the age of your child and in spite of your best efforts, they inherently know exactly what button to push to get us to react. And it seems that the more we push for them to stop it, the more they pull back until the tug of war has escalated and within seconds, the sense of peace and beauty that we so desire in our homes is ruined. So what do we do? How can we conquer this frustrating behavior that frays at our nerves, fuels our frustration, and tests the limits of our patience?
Here are a few ideas that I have found helpful.
1. Take a break.
Take a few steps back. Retreat into my room for a few minutes – ALONE. Breathe! Regroup. Punch a pillow if it helps! Timeout for Mommy is not only healthy, but a sanity saver! As you remove your presence from the child they also get a chance to recover and try again. And while I take a break, I do what my knees were made for – I PRAY! When mothering moments go awry, I need help from a higher power. For me, this is God. I have found that He is always there – never too busy for me, never burdened by yet another plea for help. I pour out my heart with my worry, frustration, anger, and then, I LISTEN.
Sometimes I get an idea – I can see how I could have prevented the situation or how I could react in a better way next time or something simple I could do to help my child. It may not be the entire solution to the problem, but it is enough to get me headed back in the right direction. And as I implement that God-given idea, I regain confidence and my child and I regain a positive momentum. Other times after prayer, I am left with a simple yet reassuring sense of peace: I can handle this. I’ve got what it takes. I am a good mother. And other times, the answers aren't immediate but come along the way as God, my Father in Heaven goes behind-the-scenes with me and adds to my efforts.
2. Become curious.
Ask, “Why?” Why is my child behaving this way? What could he or she be feeling right now? What things are going on in this stage of their life that could cause this? Is there a little sibling rivalry going on? Is there a new baby that is diverting my attention? Perhaps something going on at school? I wonder: what is hard for them? How do they feel about themselves right now? Is there something I could do or say that would help to redirect their attention to something positive? When we become curious, we open up the door to the possible feelings of our children and we become more compassionate, empathetic, more loving. We can even help them to feel supported by helping them voice their own feelings. “Are you feeling sad, frustrated, lonely? How can I help?”
3. Model the behavior you want to see.
As hard as it may be to believe, it just may be that your child has not thought of a better way of doing things, even despite perpetual broken-record pleas from you. They may be in need of a consistent example to follow. Let’s say that your child has developed a habit of running through the house screaming. Although it may make you feel like pulling your hair out and yelling back, muster the mentality to smile and speak with a calm and quiet voice instead. “Let’s use our inside voices.” The important people in our children’s lives are like great big mirrors. What our children see in us, we will also eventually see in them. So, let’s be the best mirrors we can be accompanied with a smile, a hug, and a kiss.
Whatever we give our children attention for they will repeat. We already know that our children do the things that drive us bonkers often to get attention. So why not turn it around and use this to our advantage? Rather than handing out negative attention, we could choose to focus on those things that we want to continue and offer praise when we see them. For example, when I wish that the children would not fight and argue, I notice and thank the child at a time when they are being a peacemaker. “I love it when . . .” You fill in the blanks. My mom did this for me once in a simple way that stuck with me. One day she gave me a Mr. Goodbar candy bar with the explanation, “because you’re so good.” I didn’t know about shaping then, but every time I remembered that tasty treat, along with her other caring words and deeds, I felt like I was good and I tried to prove her correct!
5. Realize that we are not meant to control others.
I think I all too often learned this lesson the hard way, scraping the heels of my feet as I skidded along the road of hard-won control. As I struggled to learn a better way, I reflected often on a quintessential quote that I pinned on my Value Board:
“Never let a problem to be solved, become more important than a person to be loved.”
-- Thomas S. Monson
Such a beautiful reminder! This thought helped me to remember that the little people in my life were not bad, they were learning, just like I was learning how to mother with love.
Our children will inevitably do things that we do not approve of and this is not, I repeat NOT an indicator that we have failed as parents. And while that means that at times we need to discipline, we can leave out the empty threats, arguing, bribery, fighting.
Yes, our mission is not to control, but to teach, to influence, set an example, and - the best part of all - love them like crazy!
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