I think anyone who knows me at all, even virtually, knows I love my kids fiercely. But, like anyone else, there are times … if you are a parent or in any way responsible for kids of any age, you understand what I mean. Parenting often feels like a mystery, inside a riddle, wrapped in a conundrum and rolled in confusion. It can seem like no matter what you do, situations don’t turn out the way you envision.
The lingering pandemic and all that goes along with it is one of the external forces, like peers and the media, influencing and affecting people of all ages. The economy is slumping, inflation is creeping up, tensions around the world are high for all different reasons. Sometimes it seems that everyone is itching for an argument to release that tension.
You know, no matter how much we all try to be the best parents possible, sometimes we all reach our limits. Frequently, we don’t like ourselves when we do. There may even be moments when we don’t like our kids (or our own parents) and that can be extremely unsettling. It seems to me that one of the biggest challenges any parent faces is being confronted with situations that leave them extremely disappointed in the behavior of their child, or desperately worried about their safety.
So, what can we do at those moments?
I think the very first thing is to remind and reassure yourself that ups and downs, peaceful times and crisis moments are all part of normal life. I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist. I’ve read a startling number of books on this subject and spoken with many, many professionals in the field over the past 15 years. Over and over, I’ve heard many of the same things.
Children of all ages need: unconditional love, absolute security, a solid connection to at least one adult, someone to believe in them, and they live up or down to the expectations we have of them. I should explain that when I write expectations, I’m not talking about achievements or some measurable academic or physical accomplishments like GPA and trophies hello. I’m writing about things like honesty and fairness, being a generous, kind person, and making considerate, responsible choices.
Unconditional love is just that – love with no conditions, no strings, no hoops to jump through, no hills to climb to receive it. Even when we dislike choices they make, are frustrated with their decisions, or disapprove of their behavior, children must still know we love and value them.
This sounds reasonable and logical, right? Well, I know from personal experience that it’s not easy to turn off the anger, hurt or frustration when we’re dealing with a serious crisis, major safety issue, or big disappointment. Being furious or incredibly worried makes it hard to think about unconditional love and high expectations.
- I’ve tried counting to ten, which sometimes ends up necessitating that I count to 50 or 60 instead. The more upset I am, the more numbers are needed!
- Playing music to calm myself down or distract myself. I typically use my Alexa for this. Now that I think about it, I ought to create a playlist for this purpose!
- I try remembering things about when my kids were little and so cute. It helps to have plenty of photos on my computer, which really help with this!
- I’ve tried deep breathing, taking care not to hyperventilate.
- Sometimes, in an effort to have more empathy, I’ve tried remembering how it was to deal with my own mother when I was their age.
- Writing or typing a few notes about why I’m so upset can be helpful. After it’s on paper or on a screen, it frequently becomes less upsetting because there becomes a degree of separation from the emotional part of it. It becomes easier to be calmer and more reasonable.
- Prayer or simple meditation can have a centering, calming effect.
To be honest, sometimes none of that works. I end up having to apologize for losing my temper when I should have been able to control it. As a parent or the responsible adult in their lives, we have a responsibility and obligation to try to maintain a level of self-control. It can be really tough to do that when somebody – even a beloved child of whatever age – manages to really “push your buttons”, even if they had no idea they were doing that.
No matter what you see on social media, or how much any of us love our kids, none of us are perfect. None of them are perfect either. For the most part, what you see on social media are curated images that project what the poster wishes to project. Most people don’t share the moment when they want to pull their hair out because of frustration over something their child has said or done.
When we deal with our kids of any age, or even other adults, we have to communicate with one another. Show respect to one another. Listen to them so our kids learn to listen to us, and other adults in turn may be more willing to listen to us. Not be afraid to apologize when it’s called for – even to children of whatever age.
If it’s very hard for you to control your temper with your child, or with people in general, there’s no shame in getting help. There’s never any excuse to abuse anyone, of any age.
How do you cope when your children or somebody else push you beyond reason? I’d love to know. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with me what works or doesn’t work for you.