A few months ago, I was giving an IQ test to an adorable little boy.
As the questions became more difficult, he looked at me and said, “This is challenging. I love a good challenge.” His reaction was so different. Typically, children become frustrated when it gets too hard or they give a whiney variation of, “I don’t know, I just want to stop.”
At five years of age, this sweet boy had already learned the value of persistence in the face of resistance. The United States military has a popular saying,
“Embrace the Suck”
Research among members of the military has repeatedly shown that mental toughness was developed and/or improved when they accepted the difficulty of a situation, made a plan to overcome it, and followed through with the plan.
While parenting may not be as life-threatening as serving in a foreign war, it is a grueling and persistent battle. No home is drama-free. Bedtime is rarely easy, kitchens are hardly ever clean, and children are only happy about completing chores or homework once in a blue moon.
Unfortunately, some parents want someone to “fix” their child at the first sign of anything problematic. The truth is, all children have tantrums, all children are selfish, and no one is born with the ability to be logical when they are overly emotional.
How are you dealing with this as a parent? Are you embracing the challenge or becoming whiney and frustrated?
How can you be an emotionally healthy parent? Embrace the suck. To improve your own mental toughness, you need to EXPECT to clean up vomit, cancel your exciting plans for a sick child, deal with a tantrum at the worst possible moment, or a variety of other parenting realities.
Once you fully embrace the suck you can avoid the joy stealing pitfalls of bitterness and resentment. When we embrace the suck, we are better able to see the beauty of a face and dress covered in ice cream or the humor in a sassy comment.
Embracing the suck of parenting will not only heal you and free you, it will also allow you to fully experience the joys of raising children in spite of how angry, frustrated, sad, or alienated being a parent may make you may feel.
I was blessed by a friend who taught me this lesson when my oldest was very young. When I was at her house, her son found a hole in a pillow and pulled out all of the stuffing. It was everywhere. I was exasperated and thought, “How annoying.
This will take forever to clean.” She fell on the floor laughing and ran to get a camera. The mess didn’t surprise her (she had previously embraced the suck of toddlers and messes).
She treasured that moment (made a plan to enjoy the messes), and did not allow the inconvenience to make her bitter or resentful (followed through with the plan).
Let’s revisit that sweet, challenge-loving five-year-old. Do you know who modeled that behavior to him?
His mother. She rarely complains, becomes frustrated, or whines. She looks at parenting problems as an exciting mystery to solve.
Trust me, her son is H-A-R-D, but her attitude towards parenting is positively changing her life and his.