One of the most common things I heard from my mother when I was growing up was “you don’t appreciate me” or “you don’t appreciate the things I do for you.” I think many mothers feel this way about their children. I even heard my mother-in-law say this about her thirty-five year old son. Why do so many mothers feel this way? It is true that some mothers pour their heart and soul into raising their children. But, in the end, it does not matter how much effort she feels like she used, or how much love she has for her child. What matters is the actions she has taken, and how they affected her child.
For instance, if a mother thought that spanking, sleep training, time outs, and junk food were good for her child or helped her child, the energy she put into doing those things for her child would not matter if those things impacted her child negatively. No one child can fit into any “box” and no one child needs the exact same discipline techniques, diet, or anything else.
We are all individuals and should be treated individually, even children. It is the parent’s responsibility to adapt to the child, not the other way around. A parent chooses to have a child, the child does not choose to be born.
And yes, some children are more difficult to cope with than others, but most children are born with an inherent good nature, a desire to please people, and a yearning for knowledge. It is our job, as parents, to teach them what life is about and how to navigate the world safely, respectfully, and well.
Appreciation, affection, and love must be taught by parents, and should not be expected without first teaching them what they are, why they are important, and how to show them. My little Monkey Man, even at fourteen months old, shows appreciation and affection towards me freely and unprompted. Every time he shares with me an object or a hug, or anything else, I tell him “thank you” very enthusiastically, and hug and kiss him. He models that behavior by smiling at me (he is still mostly non-verbal) when I share with him and gives me many unprompted hugs and kisses throughout the day. Children learn best by example, and I think so many parents forget that. “Do as I say, not as I do” is a very common phrase parents tell their children, which has no efficacy.
Even if a mother puts forth her best effort into her children, if that effort impacts a child negatively, what good did it do? Why should a child show appreciation for his/her mother’s effort simply because she worked hard? As parents, we expect hard work. If our hard work impacts a child negatively, they should not, and likely will not, be appreciative.
It is important to model the behavior you would like to see in your children because, like it or not, they are little sponges and will soak up everything they can. Their brains are wired for learning, and they will learn from you. If a mother wants appreciation, respect, affection, or love, she must first teach her child how, and the best way to do that is to appreciate, respect, love, and be affectionate towards the child. After all, every child deserves it, no matter their weaknesses, strengths, flaws, or disabilities. Let us learn to appreciate our children. And in return, we will be appreciated by them.