Sad child--I didn't mean to hurt her

I Didn’t Mean To Hurt Her (but I did)

I didn’t set out that day to hurt her. I can still picture the way her face fell when I did. If I could go back and “redo”, I would. Since that wasn’t possible, I decided there would be a “redo” in my heart and my mind, because I never wanted to be the one to cause her to feel that way again.

We were all going on not much sleep from previous nights, and no one was feeling well. It was my littlest’s nap time and as we were in the room getting ready to lay him down, I realized I hadn’t given him medicine and he would probably rest better if I did. He was whiny and clinging to me so I asked my oldest to go get his medicine for me.

“I don’t know where it is,” she said. All of my exhaustion and irritation rose to the surface. Irritation for forgetting the medicine in the first place, irritation because she didn’t jump up to help, and irritation that she didn’t know where it was. I thought to myself, “It’s been in the same place for as long as I can remember, how does she not know where it is?”

Allowing all I was feeling to rise to the surface, I get up and say, “Fine. I guess I’ll go get it myself.” I glanced at her and that was the moment her face fell.

“Fine, I’ll go get it myself.”

On my way to the kitchen I realized it was likely that she didn’t know where the exact medicine I wanted was, why would she? It’s not like she ever dispensed medicine to her little brother herself. And she wasn’t trying to be difficult, she just genuinely didn’t know where to find it.

I also realized that it had been awhile since I had given him medicine, and I needed to check the dosage first anyway, so it actually made more sense for me to go get it so I could do both things.

And as I thought about those things, and remembered the hurt on her face, I realized, once more, just how much my words can affect, and even damage, her sweet little heart. And all within a matter of seconds.

I understood exactly how my words made her feel in that moment because I have felt the exact same way from the actions and words of other people. It was as if I’d dismissed her entirely, along with all of her worth and value.

Basically, it was the same as saying, “Well, you are worthless to me, so I’ll just figure it out myself.”

I hate it when someone makes me feel that way, don’t you? It is one of the worst feelings in the world to feel like you offer nothing of value to another person.

We deeply love our kids from the moment we learn they exist. And it grows as we feel them move in the womb. Our hearts soar with love the first time we see them and get to snuggle them close. We hold them and want to protect and guard them from all the evil in the world.

We certainly never intend to be the ones who hurt them. We see such value in them. We are their greatest cheerleaders and encouragers. We see all the good in them, all they have to offer the world. We have unconditional love for them.

Every child has infinite value. Priceless worth. God Himself formed them and breathed life into them. He has a plan and purpose for them.

We know all of that. We believe it deeply in our hearts. Yet, sadly, on those days when we are frustrated, exhausted, overextended, stressed, or feeling a little worthless ourselves, a word or action can slip out that causes their faces to crumple and their shoulders to slump. Immediately, we know that we just wounded them with our words.

We need to make a plan for those days, because, inevitably, they will happen.

Here are 6 ways to build your child back up and show them the true worth they possess:

1. Admit we were wrong and offer a sincere apology.

Children of any age benefit from us admitting we are human and make mistakes, and that even adults need to apologize and ask for forgiveness. They already know we aren’t perfect; it helps them hear us admit what we did wrong, even explain a little why (“I was so tired”, “I was worried about something else”, etc.) adding that we still shouldn’t have said or done that, and asking for forgiveness.

If they are younger we can try to rebuild the damage right away.

Immediately, we can start saying kind things to them, reaffirming them, and snuggling with them.

However, if they are a little older and we try to shower them with kind words, etc., right away, they likely won’t be open to receiving them yet.

With older kids, we need to be more intentional as the day goes on to rebuild what was damaged.

We need to be careful not to try to do too much praise too fast because they will have their guard up and may be a little suspicious or untrusting for awhile.

2. Offer genuine praise about some quality they possess or a specific way they acted recently.

Every child has their strengths. Make sure to show them that we notice theirs by pointing them out throughout the day.

3. Hug or pat them.

If they aren’t very affectionate, try bumping into them in a playful way, shoulder to shoulder. The goal is to communicate we care through more than just words.

4. Say, “I love you”.

Those are words all kids need to hear from their parents, especially when they aren’t feeling very loved or even lovable.

5. Ask for their advice or opinion.

Older kids will be suspicious of this if it is right away, but throughout the day, or in the coming days, likely some situation will come up where it will be natural to ask their advice or opinion about something. This shows that we value their thoughts and opinions.

6. Praise how they act or reacted in a positive way with their siblings.

Homeschooling and being around their siblings all day every day will cause friction and issues to arise. In a moment where they handle a trying situation with their siblings really well, make sure to point that out to them. Or if we see them being really sweet or doing something kind for a brother or sister, comment on it.

7. Be aware of moments where they are open to a one-on-one talk.

Find a time where you can pull them aside on their own and really express how much you love them. Tell them how valuable they are to you. How you are so blessed to be their mom, and how thankful you are that they are in your life. Go back to the time when you found out you were pregnant with them, or the first time you held them, and remind them how precious they were, and are, to you.

Talk about how much God loves them and the great value they have in His eyes. How His love is even deeper than ours (even though it’s hard to imagine how that can be because ours is so deep!) and that is is never-ending and unconditional.

We also need to pray for wisdom on how to become a better mother and for strength to control our words and actions before they cause damage we will regret.

The sad truth is, we aren’t perfect and we will make mistakes in parenting that will hurt our kids in the process. These seven steps will be helpful in rebuilding our child’s heart and melting away the hurt stored there from our words or actions. Let’s make it our goal to shower our kids with love and make them feel cherished and valuable.

Are there any steps you would add that have helped you in a similar situation?

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