During the first few years of being a Dad, I wanted fingertip control of my kids. I wanted it so bad. But, I didn’t get it. And when I didn’t get it, when my son would disobey me, my brain would short circuit. I’d be beside myself in disbelief. And I would get angry.
“What’s wrong with this kid”
“Is he trying to mess with me”
“What doesn’t he understand about, no”
“Does he speak a different language than us?”
“I just said no, I know he heard me?”
The worst of it was the intentional defiance. It killed me. It made my blood boil. I saw it as complete and utter disrespect. He knows what I just said, yet he keeps doing it. He’s basically telling me that I’m a worthless parent that couldn’t control him if I tried. There he is looking at me, smiling and taunting me. There he is daring me to do something. There he is telling me he doesn’t care what I think! And then would come the anger, so much anger!!!
Yes, I could get really angry. Angry because, and here is the truth of it, a little child was making me feel powerless. Disrespecting me! I would think:
This isn’t right. This is unacceptable! There is no way I was going to stand for this! I’ve already felt enough powerlessness in my life, and I’m sure as hell not going to let a little child make me feel this way. I’m the adult now. I get to be in charge! I’m in control…And he is going to listen to me…or ELSE!
Yikes! Where did that come from?
Well, where do you think it comes from? Serious question.
Where do we learn these lessons about children, that children are untrustable, disrespectful, and up to something? Where do we experience such powerlessness in our lives that we hunger for so much control over our little children? I have my own theories, but I’d like to hear from you.
Looking back, I’m embarrassed about how I could have thought like this. At the time, I didn’t know much about childhood development and impulse control. I didn’t realize that toddler age children simply act from a place of honesty and innocence. There are no bad intentions, no manipulation. They don’t have the cognitive functioning to behave in those ways. It took me a while to trust in the goodness of my child. But once I did, it was an absolute game changer. Things are so much better now. For everyone!
Here is a heads up. If you think your child is thinking these negative thoughts about you. If you think your child is messing with you, or manipulating you…I’ve got news. They aren’t. Their needs are basic and straight-forward. For children, behavior is communication, and it’s a language you need to learn.
If you are having a hard time with this. I get it. I’ve been there. I’d be more than happy to help you frame things in a different, more positive way. One thing I know for sure is that anger is not the answer. Dr. Laura Markham agrees and gives some useful tips on dealing with anger here.
If I can do it, so can you. I am proof that our parenting can evolve. I went from trying to snuff out unacceptable behaviours to trying to help my kids problem solve instead. At first it felt really incomplete to “let misbehaviours go unpunished.” It felt unnatural not to respond with a show of power. But trusting that my kids were good, meant that guidance rather than punishment was more appropriate. Cooperation rather than domination was more effective. I did a reversal on how I saw my kids, and how I interacted with my kids. It has gone a long way and my kids have really responded. Ironically, their behaviour now is much better than when I was so concerned about their behaviour. I feel better, they feel better. It’s a win win really.
If you are having a hard time with this and are reacting in ways you’d rather not, book some time to talk with me. I can help you.
In truth and love,