That sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Some of you reading this may be thinking “How can any parent not like their kids?!” If you are one of those parents, this post may not be for you. You may not have had the same experiences that some of us had. Let me be clear for those of you who are having difficulty with this concept, we love our kids to bits. It’s just that there are times when, despite our desire to ALWAYS have positive feelings about our kids, things just don’t click.
I’ve met a lot of parents over the years that have had moments where they just can’t stand their kids. This, of course, elicits a tremendous amount of guilt, embarrassment, shame and doubt in one’s ability to be a good parent. I know, because I have dealt with this very issue myself. I’m hoping that by sharing what I have learned, I can help some of you out there who may be struggling with the same feelings.
As many of you know, I have two children. A son, age 8, and daughter, age 5. There was a period of time when I just couldn’t stand being around my son. He was about four and a half at the time. He was (and still is to a certain extent) a very strong willed child. Everything was a battle, e.g., dinner time, getting ready in the morning, picking up toys, etc. It seemed that every interaction was negative. I saw him as being extremely sassy and egocentric. I was deeply concerned about his future. I was worried he would grow up to be a self-centered, insensitive individual who had utter and complete disregard for others. I was in tears most nights wondering what I had done wrong as a parent, questioning every decision I had ever made. To make things worse, I ADORED my daughter. In contrast, she was so laid back and joyful. I worried that because she was so “easy” compared to my son, that I would be showing favoritism. Looking back, it is hard to believe that I was as tightly wound as I was, but it is what it is and these are the things that I laid in bed worrying about.
It was a rough time, but it was also an important period that helped me grow as a parent. In one of my moments of despair, I realized that I was spending so much time focusing on my son that I had not spent nearly enough on the real source of the problem – ME! For years as a social worker, I have been telling people that they are in control of their feelings, e.g., no one else can make them angry, it is their choice to feel that emotion, etc. I needed to practice what I preached!
Below are some thoughts, suggestions and things to consider if you are a parent who is having difficulty “liking” their child at the moment. They helped me through some tough times enable to get back on track to become the parent I wanted to be and have a better relationship with my son:
· What buttons is your child pushing? Is your reaction really about your child or about something within your own skin? For me, I realized that I was viewing every challenge by my son (which of course was appropriate given his age at the time) as a personal attack on my authority. Of course, I responded defensively. Naturally, the more I tried to maintain control, the harder he fought against it! A very wise therapist once told me, “You can’t take anything your kids do personally.”
· What is your role in the interaction? Besides taking things personally, I realized that I was way too restrictive with my son. While my daughter didn’t balk at limitations (totally different story now!), my son fought against them. I needed to give him more choices and more involvement in decisions that affected him. I learned how to share more control with him which has made both of us much happier.
· Change your perspective. Look at the positives. Make a list if you need to of all of your child’s wonderful qualities. Reframe the qualities that cause you the most grief. For example, rather than seeing my son as pushy, I started viewing his constant debating to get his way as a skill that needed to be nurtured. Being able to assert oneself is an important life skill. He was just trying to assert himself, but his technique needed some tweaking.
· Change what you do. I needed to react differently to his behaviors, but I also needed to connect with him on a more positive level. Recognizing that need, I made it a priority to spend more one on one time together, e.g., going on dates, hanging out at the bookstore, etc. It really helped me to remember and get back in touch with all the fantastic qualities he possessed.
· What do you need? Are you under stress? Do you need a break? In order to nurture our kids, we must nurture ourselves. Call in some support from friends and family to give yourself a needed break whether it be for an hour or a day. You will be a much better parent for it!
· Cut yourself some slack. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Parenting is a process. There is no one sized, fits all instruction manual. Rather, we learn as we go which means we are bound to make mistakes. Consider, however, that mistakes are valuable learning tools. Take what you learn and resolve to do better the next time.
· Apologize. It is important to apologize to your kids if you’ve lost your cool or reacted in away that you didn’t want to. It will make you both feel better. In addition, you are demonstrating that you are not perfect and it is okay to make mistakes. I am always overcome by children’s ability to forgive and forget so graciously.
I hope that this information is a source of solace for those parents out there that may be struggling with this. For those who haven’t, I hope that this helps you understand those parents who do struggle so that you can provide them with much needed empathy and support.
Of course, this is not to say that there aren’t still times where I don’t particularly like being around my kids. But I realize now that it is okay because there are certainly times that they don’t like being around me! This is a part of being a family. Bad moods, stress and other things happen. It is a part of life. The important thing is to recognize when you are going through it, pull back, regroup and get yourself back on track.
So, have you had times were you just don’t like your kid(s)? How did you get past it? Post any suggestions or thoughts!