March 20th, 2013 by admin

8 Comments

Snapshot Portrait: Kristin Goodwin

Snapshot Portrait: Kristin Goodwin

Hockessin, DE, March 20, 2013

I realized I have power when…

…I discovered the power of tenderness, and what it means to have unconditional love and attachment as a mother. For me it comes down to letting someone know that they are more important than the rules, or the spilled milk, or what the other moms at the park think. More important than being on time, or than a broken dish.

My son, Ian, was particularly violent as a little boy. He’s always struggled with deeply negative feelings, and he doesn’t know what to do with them. When he hit or pushed someone, the socially correct thing for me was to make him apologize and give him a stern correction, but he was just getting worse and I found out that other parents were avoiding us. I offered some really desperate prayers about how to help him.

The clear answer I got was the exact opposite of social convention. It was completely embarrassing to me, and often anger-provoking in other mothers; but if Ian did something mean and physically hurtful, I would immediately gather him up in my arms and love him. That had to be my response, and it had to be immediate, that was key.

In fact, I’m going to repeat it: I had to immediately offer him all of my affection and attention instead of frustration and reprimand. Unfortunately, if someone was crying and hurt from the stick my son hit them with, and the other kid’s mom saw me act as if my child was the wounded one in need of comfort, we didn’t win a lot of social points.

I had to immediately offer him all of my affection and attention instead of frustration and reprimand.

Another turning point for me was a family prayer Ian gave. It was the most tender, pleading, sincere prayer I’ve ever heard from a child that age. He didn’t seem 3 or 4 years old; he seemed ageless, his spirit itself speaking purely. The scriptures tell us that “little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned” (Alma 32:23) and that when Christ visited the Nephites, “he did loose [their children's] tongues, and they did speak unto their fathers great and marvelous things” (3 Nephi 26:14). That was the experience my husband and I had during this prayer as we heard our little boy pour his true, gentle heart out.

I couldn’t ignore the answer I had been given. I knew my son’s feelings were more important than his behavior, and that I could only change what he felt from me and not how he acted. He wasn’t hitting because he didn’t understand it was wrong; he was already trying so incredibly hard not to be ‘bad’. I had been focused on being so absolutely consistent in my discipline, he just felt like there was no loophole, no mercy, that the more he hit the less he deserved love. When he lost control, he instantly knew he had done wrong and was already feeling guilt and self-loathing in his little heart. He was waiting for me to show whether or not I, his mother, thought more of him than that, instead of just a lecture and public shame.

I began to understand that his little heart was amazingly tender and open to love, that the knowledge that he was more important than his mistakes would work miracles. Setting aside anger and frustration and learning to replace it with love and affection right when someone seems least deserving is beyond hard. But it is possible, and powerful. I can testify of that.

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8 Comments

  1. Lori Pimentel
    10:57 am on March 20th, 2013

    Beautiful and brave! I’m interested to hear how it’s going now. How do you deal with the response from other parents?

  2. Erin
    11:04 am on March 20th, 2013

    I have a son who is the same way – extremely sensitive and thoughtful, but has a hard time sharing his feelings and often becomes violent when he is upset or frustrated. I prayed a lot to know what to do with him and received a similar answer. I always try to respond to his outbursts gently and let him know I’m there when he needs a hug. It usually takes a little while for him to settle down, but then he will come and sit in my lap and cuddle. I tell him I love him and then calmly tell him the consequences of his outburst (i.e. if he threw something he needs to pick it up, sometimes loss of privileges). As I’ve responded this way rather than getting angry, yelling, and punishing him, he has responded well. His outbursts are few and far between now and we have a stronger relationship. I think part of his anger, like you said, is that he knew he had made a bad choice and was afraid I didn’t love him anymore, which just made him more angry and upset. Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s nice to know there are people struggling with similar issues.

  3. HDH.
    1:36 pm on March 20th, 2013

    “…the knowledge that [we are] more important than [our] mistakes would work miracles…” — this is the exact point of the Savior’s Atonement, and you’re using it in motherhood. Awesome.

    Love this!

  4. Aaron
    3:06 pm on March 20th, 2013

    I know him. He is twelve now. He is bright, kind, and well thought of.

  5. Amy Smith
    4:15 pm on March 20th, 2013

    I love this because i can totally relate. I developed the hobby of studying child development and brain science to logically explain why I was receiving the same inspiration…love and attachment over time outs. I wrote http://www.presentparenting.org recently to explain our new style. Our children are thriving more than ever.
    Way to be bold and in tune in such a lovely and natural way!

  6. S Bates
    7:48 pm on March 20th, 2013

    That’s really beautiful and I needed to hear it. Thanks.

  7. David Clawson
    4:56 pm on March 22nd, 2013

    Kristin-Thanks for sharing. I admire and respect your courage in doing a very socially unacceptable thing. Months ago I saw such an event at a playground where the mother knelt in the sand and cradled her 3 year old, instead of apologizing to the other child or parents. My initial reaction was ‘how self-centered this mother was’, but her ‘confidence in her method spoke volumes and reduced the otherwise tense situation. Thanks again.

  8. Melissa Moore Newcombe
    9:21 am on March 27th, 2013

    Kristin – this is your friend from Canton Ward a few years ago ;). A sweet friend in my ward emailed me the link to your “interview”, for lack of a better word. We had been sharing a problem we’re both going through with our own boys. And she said she felt comforted when she read your story and used the solution you mentioned with her own child and how that made a difference. I will be trying this method with 2 of my children who are having different struggles, but this showing of love to each of them may be just the solution I’ve been praying for. Thanks so much for sharing your story! I love ya, Kristin!

    Sincerely,
    Melissa

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