It's OK to Do THIS When Your Kid Rips Your Heart Out (But Are You Brave Enough?)

Spoiler Alert: This starts happy, and maybe even a little mushy, but doesn’t end as flowery. Read on, and pretty please take a moment to share your wisdom at the end.

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The Scene: Indianapolis Airport Terminal B, 9:00 a.m., a mother and daughter (Josie, 3.5) are killing a half hour before boarding a plane for vacation.

Me: Josie, let’s go see if we can find some moms to give stickers to!

Josie: (Spots a mom, runs with Mother of the Year award sticker in hand to said mom) You’re a really good mommy!

Mommy: (Tears up) Awww! That’s so sweet! You made my day!

Repeat this 10 times. Heart full, pride overflowing.


The Scene: Kroger. Same mother, same daughter.

Josie: Mom! There’s a Mommy! Let’s give her a sticker!

Me: Ok! Here ya go!

Josie: (To mommy) You’re a really good mommy!

Mommy: (Tears up) Awww! That’s so sweet! You made my day!

Repeat this per number of mothers in Kroger at any given time. Heart full, pride overflowing.

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The Scene: The playroom at home. Same mother, same daughter.

Josie: (wearing baby doll in baby carrier) Look at my cute baby!

Me: Wow, Josie, you’re such a good mommy!

Josie: I need a Mommy Sticker!

Me: Of course! (I get her a Mother of the Year Award sticker)

Josie: You wear the baby and I’ll give you the sticker!

Repeat this several times. Photos taken. Heart full, pride overflowing.

See, my girl has always been an encourager. She’s naturally empathetic and loves to use her words for good. She’s complimentary to everyone around her, noting pretty dresses and new skills (baby brother crawling, walking, etc.) She is instantly your biggest fan.

Until she’s not. Until the threenager in her not only emerges but takes her over completely. Until she doesn’t want to be buckled in her car seat or she doesn’t think she needs to use the potty before bed.

Maybe other kids do this too (do yours?), but I feel like I’m alone in this. She throws the tantrums that turn to meltdowns like other kids her age, but she also takes those sweet words and knows how to twist them into your soul like a sharp knife. Cutting you all the way down in an instant. At 3-years-old.

See, I like to think I’m pretty good with my words too. I’m a natural empathizer and a storyteller. And I learned (and was taught, thanks Mom!) that my words carry weight. But at 3?

The Scene: Mother attempts to place daughter in her car seat so they can head to daycare.

Me: Josie, I need you in your seat now.

Josie: (Instantly passed the point of reason) Noooooo!!!!!

Me: This wasn’t a request. (Buckles child in and slides into driver’s seat)

Josie: You are NOT a really good Mommy.

Blow to the heart. Instant tears. Sure, it wasn’t all the weight of that comment, because part of me feels like she doesn’t understand what she’s saying, but more so knows that saying it will hurt. It was the stacking of stress from returning from vacation, catching up on work, comforting the boy child who got Hand Foot and Mouth disease for the second time in 3 weeks. All of that boiled over in me when I heard those words. And I just sat there in the driver’s seat, car running, and clock ticking and bawled.

I also battled internally because lots of “successful” parenting techniques and, admittedly, moments I’ve had myself in parenting have come from showing little to no emotion in response to your kid’s behavior, but firmly and calmly administering the consequences. I like that idea. But not for every moment. And frankly, because I feel everything, it’s not possible. Crying is my medium response to almost every emotion and situation. From fatigue and hunger to fear and anger.

So I went back and forth in my mind while I bawled on whether or not I was doing the right thing in the moment. And here’s where I landed.

It’s ok to be vulnerable with your kids. Josie may understand a little bit when I tell her that her words hurt people’s feelings, but she’ll understand a whole heck of a lot more when she says something horrible to me and I’m in instant tears.

Instead of lashing out in anger or fear or skipping straight to the punishment, I allowed myself to feel the weight of the situation instead of locking it up. I felt it and I grieved it in that moment.

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And she knew. Of course I’d argue that she knew what she was saying was wrong before she said it, but when I glanced back at her between my blubbering, she was serious and seriously sad, and said without being prompted, “Mommy, I’m sorry I said mean things to you.”

So what about you? Do your young kids have the gift of words, with the potential to be used for both good and evil? How are you guiding them in the right direction?

Do you allow yourself to be vulnerable with your kids, or do you bottle it up and release it later as anger or frustration or self-medication?

Help a mama out.

(And because I do think I'm a great mom and am doing something right, I will take a tiny second to brag about how awesome this girl is at giving out stickers! I LOVE that it's become part of her regular day! She's learning from me that it is important to spread love and kindness to others. If you want to get in on that with your kids, buy some stickers and get out there!)