Who has freaked out on their kids lately? Be honest, there’s no judgment here. I did it just yesterday. It was the ugly, uncalled for, bad example of how to deal with frustration type of freaking out. That was me. Yes, the person who is always here talking to you about positivity and gratitude and being present. I talk about all of this stuff because I need to hear it myself. Tantrum was actually yesterday’s daily prompt, but it is extremely apropos for what I need to write about today. Here’s what happened…
My kid is five, almost six, and can’t ride a bike. This is completely my fault. It hasn’t been a priority. When we are outside playing, which is often, we are usually swimming, hiking, on the playground, climbing, or doing something in the dirt. Biking isn’t something I like to do much, so it isn’t something I have modeled for her or helped her learn. Still, it is a basic skill that everyone should learn. So we agonize over it every so often.
Since we’re so close to it being summer here, I thought I would bring the bike out for another test run. First off, her Hello Kitty bike is getting a little too small for her. I have raised the seat and the handlebars to near capacity, but it isn’t quite enough. Second, we live on somewhat of a hill. Our sidewalk slopes to a busy street, as does our very quiet, dead-end street. The sidewalk seemed too steep for her, so I brought her out into the street where she could ride around in a gentle circle. It’s safe because the street ends three feet past our driveway.
Unfortunately, the slope proved too much for her remedial peddling skills. Five seconds into her first circle, she paused in her timid peddle-pushing and started to roll backward down the hill. She panicked, the bike got a bit off center and the training wheels weren’t enough to stop her from toppling over onto the asphalt. And we were done. She was on her bike a grand total of 10 seconds. Max.
As she’s crying, snot running down her face, I did a quick assessment of the damage. She was fine other than a bit of a scrape on her elbow. I encouraged her to brush it off and try again but to peddle harder this time. She was having none of it. “I don’t want to ride my bike anymore!” She informed me in no uncertain terms. Another attempt to get her to try it one more time got me the same response.
So, I baited her with the classic, “So, you’re just going to give up after one try?”
“Yes,” she gurgled through tears and snot.
Frustrated with my child’s lack of resilience and determination I grabbed the bike and hauled it back up to the garage saying, “Well, I guess we should just throw this away then since you’re not going to learn how to use it.”
“No, don’t throw it away!” She screamed.
“I’m not going to throw it away, but I am really done with your attitude,” I said to the little girl with the scraped elbow who was already upset and probably just needed some parental support. Then she threw down her helmet, screamed at me, and ran inside, slamming the door behind her.
I’m pretty sure all of the neighbors were wondering what was going on at this point, what with the crying and the screaming. I had had it with her attitude and followed her inside to tell her about it. I found her crying in her room.
At this point, I should have sat down next to her and comforted her like a good mother would do. A mother whose goal was to encourage her daughter to handle herself in a positive, evolved manner would have discussed the situation calmly and encouraged feedback. This is also what a mother who didn’t want her daughter to dread bicycle riding in the future would do.
That is not what I did. What I did was to walk into her room an proceed to tell her that she is five, as if she doesn’t already know that, and a girl who is five, almost six, should learn how to ride a bike!
“I am very frustrated that you refuse to even try. That you gave up after only five seconds. I’m really not even sure what to say to a girl who gives up.” I did not say these words quietly or respectfully. I said them loudly, and I may have broken out the mom finger. I told her to sit in her room and think about her attitude and closed her bedroom door. At which point she threw something at the closed door.
I opened said door and spat out, “You can just sit in this room! I don’t want to see you out here and I better not hear anything else hit this door.” Then there was angry screaming. Which is to be expected.
Now I have read Parenting With Love and Logic and Hands-Free Mama. In fact, I am a devoted follower of Rachel Macy Stafford and the Hands-Free Revolution. What mom who is considering getting “Only love today” tattooed on her arm uses the mom finger and yells at her kid for falling off of her bike? Jeez.
So then, of course, I felt bad. I want to be the type of mom whose kid feels comfortable coming up to her with any type of problem. I want to be the mom who is a judgment-free zone if not a cheerleader. Yeah, okay, I can’t always be my kid’s best friend. I do need to be a disciplinarian, but I want to be fair and not the type of mom who yells.
When she came out a few minutes later and showed me her scraped elbow, I ushered her into the bathroom and put a Hello Kitty band-aid on it. I dried her tears and told her I was sorry and asked again if she was okay. I acted this time in the way I should have acted the first time. I explained to her, quietly, that I was disappointed she gave up so quickly. I assured her that next time we would try her bike on level ground so it wouldn’t roll away. We talked about being in control and peddling and braking. Then she went outside to swing.
Parenting mishaps are not pretty, but they happen to all of us. Even if we know better, frustration can get the best of us. It is important to remember that these little people are, well, little. Think of how scary it would for you if someone yelled at you. Now imagine being a little kid with a big person yelling at you. It’s so much scarier! Additionally, how heartbreaking would it be if the one person who is supposed to be on your side–your mom–loses it over something you did wrong?
No parent is perfect, but all of us should remember that these little people need extra care and love at the exact times we are most frustrated with them. My kid was probably feeling pretty bad about herself when I said things that made her feel even worse. Who cares if she learns how to ride her bike this summer, or next? That doesn’t make her any less of a person and she should know that.
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