Why We Get Mad at Our Kids (& How to Stop)
Okay, I’m just going to blurt it out.
The bottom line is, we get mad at our kids because we think they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, and because we think that, if they are doing what they are doing, it means that we are bad parents.
Here’s how it works:
The child doesn’t listen to us. We think they should, and we assume that since they didn’t, we have done something wrong – we are bad parents. When the thought arrives that we must be bad parents, we resent our child for making it so clear to us that we are bad parents. Finally, we get mad and lash out at them, because if they did what we want them to do, we wouldn’t feel like bad parents. Then we feel guilty for lashing out, and we backpedal and cater and fix it for them – to convince them that they aren’t bad, and to convince ourselves that we aren’t either. Often, it all happens in a split second, and by the end of it, EVERYONE feels bad.
The problem with this whole vicious cycle is that it is based on faulty logic in the first place. When your child does whatever he does that you don’t like, it does not follow that someone has to be bad.
Most of us grew up in cultures that evaluated, judged, compared, and rated us, all the time. We were told to be “good” and most disagreements between children ended up with a good guy and a bad guy. So, it’s not surprising that EVEN THOUGH we know in our hearts that our kids aren’t bad, it’s hard to get our heads around the idea that we aren’t bad, either. Because the culture we grew up in taught us to choose: “Someone has to be wrong here, and someone has to be right.” When we’re upset, our thoughts run wild, and we waffle back and forth between, “He’s bad,” and “I’m bad.”
Let me hold your hand and tell you something, straight from my heart.
You are not a bad parent when your child doesn’t listen to you. Your child is not a bad kid, either.
Now, let’s reframe this whole situation starting with a different basic premise.
Let’s start from the truth – that your child is doing EXACTLY what he needs to be doing in order to learn what he needs to learn to move successfully through his current developmental process, with his or her personality.
Your two year-old MUST resist and say “no” as she discovers that she is not you. Your 3 year-old MUST experience overwhelming emotions, in order to learn how to manage those big feelings that come in life. Your 4 year-old MUST intentionally not listen, in order to find out where he has power to choose and where he does not. Your 5 year-old MUST experiment with saying Really Mean Things in order to discover his own power to hurt, and to heal, another.
“But,” you say, “My friend’s 2, or 3 or 4 or 5 year-old doesn’t do those things!!”
Not every child is alike. The developmental processes are the same, but every personality experiences those developmental needs differently. A more outgoing personality with a need for intensity and leadership potential will explore with power differently than a more introspective personality with a need for quiet and a love for being part of a team.
Your child, in order to develop his or her potential, strengths and self-knowledge, MUST do EXACTLY what he or she does to test hypotheses and to learn, whether you like it or not.
So, what to do with this information? Does it mean that, since we don’t get mad, we just let the child do whatever and walk all over us?
No. But whatever you do, if you keep in mind that your child is doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing, and that nobody’s bad, your actions will no longer be laced with anger and designed to punish your child.
You will still sometimes need to pick your child up and leave the birthday party amidst screams and misery. But you won’t blame your child or yourself, you won’t feel the need to stay mad or punish your child, and you won’t deem the situation a failure. Nobody has failed.
Instead, your child has succeeded in discovering one more thing about herself in the world, and you have succeeded in helping her learn, compassionately.
I’d love to help you identify how your child’s behaviour is reflecting his or her developmental process, and help you figure out what to do instead of rewards, punishments, praise or shame. Check out Big Picture Parenting 2015, or call me up for some coaching!
We can coach by phone, by Skype, no matter where you live, or in-home (if you live in Calgary, Canada). Call me to find out if coaching with me might be a good fit for you…403-607-1463.
I’d love to connect!