As humans, it’s natural for us to feel stressed when things to don’t out how we expected. It makes us feel out of control, scared of messing up, and frustrated that we have to put more effort into something.
When it comes to parenting, that’s basically a full-time state of emotion. Nothing ever goes as we expect.
And when it does, we’re shocked so we’re still in a state of unpredictability. Oh, the irony.
However, when we are ruled by our emotions as parents, we lose the inability to teach our kids clearly and effectively. Because, really, that’s what parenting is.
It’s teaching. Shaping. Molding. Growing.
How can we teach our children to control their emotions if we can’t control ours?
Many people will argue with this idea by saying, “Sometimes you just have to show your children how emotional they’re making you.”
I understand the thought process behind that statement, but I just can’t agree with it. A child can’t MAKE you do or be anything. Being angry or frustrated or sad is your choice.
The initial spike in anxiety as a parent is almost uncontrollable, but the choices that are made amidst those emotions ARE controllable. You don’t have to sink into being angry. You don’t have to be visibly angry in front of your children.
No, I’m not suggesting you should be a robot. Parents have to model healthy emotional ranges in front of their kids so that kids know that emotions aren’t bad.
That being said, it’s really important to show children that good decisions can be made in spite of negative emotions.
There’s also an aspect of those extreme emotions in parenting that come from an inability to separate your child’s behavior from their heart. A lot of parents have a hard time not taking things personally when their kids are disobedient.
Often, they feel like their kids are “trying” to annoy them or “trying” to make them miserable.
Most likely, they’re not. They’re acting in a way that they feel will get them what they want. Those choices aren’t in an attempt to be selfish or mean; it’s just the way kids are wired.
Maybe the want attention (from you, from siblings, from others). Maybe they want something tangible (candy, toy, money). Maybe they want to avoid something (chores, punishment, etc). Or maybe they’re just seeking a sensory input (needing a nap, overwhelmed by noises, really can’t handle the texture of a food).
Whatever it is they want, they’re going to take the shortest route to get there. And the way they’re acting now is simply the way they’ve learned to get what they want in the past.
If this action has worked in the past to get them what they want, they’re going to keep doing it. It doesn’t matter how loud mom got or how stressed dad got, if they ended up getting what they were seeking in the end, they mark that method as successful.
It’s just the way they’re wired.
As they grow and mature, they’ll gradually gain the ability to think beyond their own wants, but it takes a lot of years and a lot of teaching from their parents. Empathy isn’t an automatic skill. It has to be taught.
It has to be exemplified by adults.
And the first way to show empathy is to understand where kids are developmentally and stop being offended by it.
If your child hits their sibling, it isn’t because they’re trying to stress you out. They’re probably trying to get their sibling’s attention (whether positive or negative), and you can separate that behavior from their heart.
Bad choice. Good heart.
If your child spends an entire day screaming and can’t seem to calm themselves down, consider all the reasons they might be acting that way. Back up. Look at it from a new angle. Decide not to take it personally.
Bad choice. Good heart.
When you react emotionally to their decisions, you’re showing them that choices and emotions are intrinsically connected, which just isn’t true.
Be the example of self control.