How to Like Your Children

How to Like Your Children - Parenting Like Hannah

Photo by Rolands Lakis

Often when people learn we homeschool our daughter, they will say something like “I don’t know how you stand to be around your kid all day.” or “My kids and I would kill each other if we had to be together that much.” At first, I just smiled and shrugged. After awhile though, I started to wonder. Do most parents really dislike their children?

I would never question a parent’s love for their children. For most parents, their children are without a doubt, loved and wanted. How many parents really LIKE their children though? I have heard parent after parent talk about how they can only stand to be around their children for a small amount of time or how they can’t wait until their children go back to school/move away/go to college because they are driving them crazy.

I’m no psychologist, but I believe children can sense when their parents don’t like them. For children, being liked by their parents is almost as important as being loved by them. Don’t get me wrong. I totally understand that at times none of us is very likable, including our children.

In general though, we should enjoy being with our children and our eyes should light up when they enter the room. Seeing that light in the eyes of their parents shows your children God’s love for them. After all if their own parents don’t like being with them, then how can God who really knows all of their faults and mistakes love them and/or forgive them?

So what can you do if you find yourself not wanting to spend time with your own child? How can you make all of your children feel equally valued when you just naturally click with one of your children more than the others? How can you enjoy your child who drives you out of your mind on a daily basis?

If you struggle with liking one or more of your children, I believe it is a problem you need to spend some significant time and effort correcting. Your relationships with your children can affect their emotional and spiritual health as well as influence important choices in their lives.While each parent/child relationship is different, here are some general ideas to get you started:

  • Make sure everyone is getting enough sleep. Sounds crazy, but everything is more annoying when you are tired. Lack of sleep tends to make even the most kind person grouchy and irritable. Studies show that a huge majority of us are not getting anywhere close to enough sleep. How much is enough? According to my pediatrician, the average child through their teen years really needs between 10 and 12 hours of sleep a night. Anything less and you are getting a child who is overtired. You know how much fun that can be! Parents, you should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Sure, it seems cool to brag about existing on four hours, but trust me, the people who live and work with you would love for you to get a few more hours of shut eye!
  • Make sure everyone is healthy. Chronic pain, poor nutrition, lack of exercise and undiagnosed health problems can change people who are normally happy and energetic into weeping, angry, lethargic people. If you and your family are taking good care of basic health issues, then everyone should feel physically able of being pleasant to others. (Not that feeling poorly is an excuse to be ugly to others. It just makes it more of a struggle.) Should you see a sudden shift in your child’s demeanor with no obvious cause, a trip to the pediatrician is needed. It may be something as simple as a shift in hormone levels, but I have known the rare parent whose child had a more serious condition causing suddenly negative behaviors.
  • Set clear and consistent limits for your children. I will tell you what no one else is brave enough to say. If you can’t stand your child’s constant bad behavior, it is probably driving the rest of us out of our minds! No one enjoys being around children who have not been given clear and consistent limits for their behavior. If you sense people avoiding your child, it may be because your child’s behavior is rude and disrespectful to others. It’s not right, but unfortunately that is the reality of your child’s world. Don’t be fooled by the fact that your child has “friends”. Often the wild child has lots of these “friends” because the other children have learned they can do anything they want at your house with no repercussions. If your child’s friends are as unlikeable to you as your own child, you most likely have an undisciplined child. Most of the “good” kids have quickly moved on to friendships that are more meaningful and supportive.
  • Spend quality one on one time with your child. Most conflict management books encourage the conflicting parties to spend time talking with each other about their motivations and needs. Understanding brings down walls and opens up healthier communication. We may even find we actually like and admire our now former opponent. Do you know your child’s heart or just his actions? What worries her? What excites him? What is happening in his friendships? What are her real dreams for the future? How does he feel about God? What are her concerns about her Faith? Don’t barrage your child with all of these questions as he walks in the door. Go somewhere both of you enjoy and spend time hanging out together. Bring up at least one thoughtful question each time. If you can make these dates with each child weekly, or even monthly, you will get to know the real person behind your child’s actions. In the meantime, having fun together will improve your relationship just by having some positive interactions.
  • Spend time in prayer about your relationship with each of your children. Be honest to God about your sticking points and ask Him to help you move past those to a stronger relationship. Read scriptures that remind you what a blessing from God your child really is.
  • Seek outside help if necessary. Some children have issues which are so severe, you will need professional help to resolve them. There is no shame in asking for help if you need it. Try to find a qualified Christian counselor if possible to help you work through things in godly ways.
  • I saved this one for last, because no parent ever wants to hear this truth. Sadly for us all, I have found this to be the case almost every time. The parent with whom the child has the most conflict is often the parent whose personality is closest to the child’s. If you find yourself clashing with your sweetest child on a regular basis, most likely you are reacting strongly to the faults you see in him which secretly bother you about yourself. It’s okay to want your child to work on the things you have found to be issues with your own similar personality. Be honest with yourself and your child though and admit you still need to work on the same issue yourself. You may even find that helping each other tackle your similar issue brings you closer together.

Have you found other ways to like your children more? I would love for you to share what worked for you in a comment below. Your comments may help other parents who are struggling with this issue.

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Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NIV)