“I hate you!” Those words have crushed the souls of millions of parents for thousands of years. As mothers, we pour our hearts and souls into raising our children. We nurture them, cry and pray over them and love them with all of our hearts. Then, somewhere along the line, we make them angry. The words that can come out of those precious little souls can cut us to the quick.
Don’t take it personally, Mom. I know your child is really angry at you right now. It may or may not be deserved. Deep down though, your child loves you and really needs your love in return. Unconditional love though, does not mean what many parents think it means. Nor does automatically undoing whatever made your child angry mean you will have a great relationship with your child because they never stayed angry with you.
The next time your child says something hurtful, here are some tips to remember:
- It may not be about you at all. Is your child getting a molar, hormonal, had a tough day at school, stressed about a test? He will need to learn not to constantly lash out at people when life is tough. As we all know from our own outbursts, this takes a lifetime of practice and frankly I am not sure when we actually conquer this tendency. Calmly correct any disrespectful words or behavior and remind your child they are not allowed to take things out on innocent people. In the meantime though, take a deep breath and remember this is not about you or your skills or worth as a parent. Try to let the words flow over you and not sink into your soul.
- Sometimes your child has to learn “no” means “no” Someone once said a child’s job is to try to get her way as much as possible. As your children experiment with basic manipulation techniques, they may stumble upon the idea of saying hurtful things to you. This is also really not about you, other than an attempt to figure out a way to control you, in this instance by guilt. If you are so hurt you crumble and let your child have his way, you are actually hurting your child. He needs to learn to obey you. If he can’t, chances are he won’t be willing to obey God either. If your stance is godly, hold your ground sweetly, but firmly. Take a deep breath and remind yourself you are helping your child learn to curb his instinct to be selfish and self-serving.
- Sometimes you to need to apologize. Your child never has the right to be disrespectful to you. Calmly, but firmly remind your child of the need for restating her issue in a respectful tone and with kind words. If your child is correct about the fact you wronged her in some way, apologize. Modeling humility for your child is incredibly impactful. Your child also needs to learn to let people know she has been hurt in a respectful way. Remember though, this wan’t about your value as a mother or how much your child loves you. It was about a particular behavior that was a poor choice. It doesn’t mean you are a bad mother, a bad person or a bad Christian.
- Sometimes your child is out of control. Maybe your child is overtired or extremely hungry. Perhaps you have allowed your child to be disrespectful in the past and he now believes it is acceptable behavior. Your child may have just worked himself into such a frenzy, he doesn’t know how to release the energy in a more acceptable way. When a child is totally out of control, you need to move him somewhere safe and ignore him until he calms down. Only after he has calmed down, should you deal with the root cause of the issue. It is important to give consequences for whatever “crimes” were committed while he was out of control. (See past discipline posts for more specifics.)
When a child gets angry and says awful things, parents tend to either go ballistic or cave. Neither of these reactions is good for your child or your relationship with her. The next time it happens, take a deep breath and stay calm. Then calmly, but firmly deal with the behavior and any root causes.
When you are calm, it also calms your child. Then the discussions you have about appropriate behaviors and any consequences for inappropriate behavior are more easily heard. You have also avoided saying and doing things in anger you will later regret. And you have avoided caving into to your child’s every demand, thereby raising yet another entitled child. So hang in there Mom. Take a deep breath and remember it really isn’t about you at all.