Let’s face it—to parent is to sacrifice. It starts from the beginning. We mamas go through backaches, weight gain, sleepless nights, and intense pain just to bring our children into the world. We pass on job opportunities, social engagements and even hot meals in order to nurture them. And then one day, they have the nerve to yell at us and say we don’t understand, or we don’t care, or that they don’t like us? Really?
There are few things as painful to a parent as hurtful words from our children and it is easy to take them personally and launch an attack of our own.
Let me say publicly that I failed often in this area with my oldest children as I allowed their emotions to pull me into battle. I’m grateful for the growing understanding that God created us as emotional beings and, in and of themselves, emotions are not wrong. However, our emotions are also subject to our fallen nature and therefore can get out of control.
Our job then, as parents, is to help our children be good stewards of their emotions in order to produce God-honoring results. So how do we do that?
First, here are some “Don’ts” I’ve learned along the way:
1—Don’t take it personally. Having your own meltdown will only make you stoop to your child’s level and say hurtful things as well.
Our children, and even teens, need to know that they can count on us to be the calm in the midst of their chaos. They need the security of knowing they can trust us with their emotions without fear of our own.
2—Don’t get in your child’s face. I’m sure you know what I mean. Somehow we think that if we get close enough, point our finger the right way, or put our hands on our hips and speak in that ever-so-stern manner then surely they will get it together. Can we just admit that’s dumb? When someone is headed off the emotional cliff, it’s best to back up and back off, seeking to gain understanding rather than control.
3—Don’t try to reason with your child in the heat of a meltdown. Trying to make an upset child think rationally won’t work and will just frustrate both of you. Decide to just take a break to cool off and revisit the subject later.
4—Don’t send them to their room to cool off. I know this seems like a great tool because it can diffuse the immediate situation, but if used often, it can encourage misguided thoughts and can produce poor problem-solving skills.
Isolation allows children to dwell on their feelings and reach wrong conclusions rather than solutions. Our job is to teach them to stay connected and work on relationships despite painful emotions. We don’t want our children to form the habit of avoiding or disconnecting from difficult situations, but rather staying engaged toward resolution.
5—Don’t give consequences in the middle of a meltdown. Chances are, the consequence is likely not going to match the offense and your child will become more frustrated. When you and your child are calm, consider appropriate consequences. A simple “I’m sorry you were so angry, but I can’t let you get away with screaming and slamming doors, ” is a great way to convey the importance of not allowing our emotions to govern our behavior.
Remember, Mama, you make a difference. What you don’t do is just as powerful as what you do. I hope you’ll come back next week for Part 2 as we continue the conversation with the 5 things To Do when your child is angry.
Do you struggle with how to handle your child’s meltdowns and subsequent hurtful words or behavior? I’d love to hear about what works for you.