The Art of Giving Space to Your Child (a work in progress)…


Admittedly I have a lot of patience…for some things.

I can sit on the couch for over an hour and painstakingly try to “sew” the holes in Henry’s beloved blankie. I am happy to scrub mildew off the shower stall doors until things shine and my head is dizzy from all the cleaning products. I don’t even mind waiting in line at the grocery store.

Recently, I’ve discovered that I’m incredibly impatient with my children in certain circumstances. There are the day to day things that drive me nuts and I desperately try to stay patient like when my daughter has spilled her water on the floor for the 3rd time (why haven’t I learned to give her a sippy cup!?). Or when Henry comes home from school and leaves his backpack in the middle of the entrance. But each morning, I approach the day with a new found patience and gusto for smiling through the things that are really not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.

learning to give your child space to grow

Where I am having a hard time finding patience is when it comes to teaching my children life lessons.

I want my kids, especially my 6 year old, who is more out and active in the world than my 2 year old, to know all about the things in life and how to handle them. I want him to know all of this information right now. I have all this wisdom to share with him and I can’t make him learn fast enough. It’s like making him drink from a fire hose. It’s just too much.

So when he ran out in front of a car this past weekend, my patience snapped. I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him and tell him that “he put himself in so much danger and how could he do this? And did he know what could have happened? And did he know how stupid of a choice he had made?” But I didn’t say any of these things. And for the record I did not shake him nor have I ever done this to my child. I calmly sat down with him and explained how dangerous of a choice he had made.

He stared at me silently. It’s that silence that kills me. I’m a talker. I talk through my problems and I expect my child to do this as well. He doesn’t. He may interject a few words and questions here and there but often he just listens and absorbs everything I say. I know he listens and thinks about what I say during these situations because I see my guidance manifest itself in his behaviors and making good choices. But I really just wanted him to look back at me and say, “you’re right mom, you’re so smart, I can’t believe I made such a bad choice. I’ll never do it again. You have my word that I will always be safe…” Surprisingly I got barely any response from him, except for “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.”

And this is where I’m having a hard time being patient…and giving him the space he needs to learn and process.

Last year when Henry was in Kindergarten, we had a rough few weeks at home (you can read about it here). He did wonderfully at school and on the bus, but when he came home he was grumpy, quiet, and tired. I just couldn’t let him be. I would grill him every day when he came home about school. And I would push him with all my questions so much that he would snap back at me. In turn I would snap back at him and he would always end up in time out. It was a viscious little circle that we were both caught in. And frankly, it was my fault. I hadn’t learned to just give him a little space.

This year he is now in first grade and I’m slowly learning to be patient and not “poke the skunk” when he is tired or grumpy. But it’s a hard balance, right? You want to make sure you give them space to breathe and grow, but you also don’t want to be so distant from them that you aren’t aware of what is going on in their life. It’s a dance. And being patient with the slow (and wonderful) life developmental progress my son is making is one that I am working diligently at strengthening. Maybe this patience just comes with time and practice. Like a muscle that needs exercise and nurturing…maybe I’ll get there by the time he is an adolescent. I recall my parents having such finesse when it came to giving my teenage-self space. They knew when to push me for answers and when to just let me go to my room and listen to moody music…and I turned out just fine.

first day of school


  1. Yes! I feel this way too, it is so tough to let them grow at their own pace. Jude started kindergarten and I want to know everything he did and ate and who he played with all day and well, the poor kid 🙂


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