When You Can't Stand Your Kids
We’ve all been there. Some days you just wish your kids would go away—not forever, just a week or two 😜 Or how about those moments when you think your kid is a jerk … or is that just me??? LOL. Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done. I could so easily just spank my kids, lay down the law, and be done with it. The thing is, I’m trying to raise world changers. I’m trying to raise compassionate, loving human beings who know how to manage their own emotions without me around to constantly police them. I’m in for the long game … and most days DOES IT EVER feel Looooong. This topic is so rich and there are a ba-jillion things that could be said. But I strive to make things practical. If you’re like me, you are trying to help your kids manage themselves, but you feel like you’re going bonkers. Here are some ways you can help them and hopefully help yourself in the process. Keep in mind that every child is different and might require different styles of parenting … just to, you know, make it harder. Haha!
Ignore. This is honestly your secret weapon. Lots of bad behaviour, if not harmful to anyone, can be ignored. What do kids want more than anything else? Attention. And they will find ways of getting it. When we pour more attention and energy into their bad behaviour, we give them power. And feeling powerful is important. Misbehaving is just not the right way to get it.
The other day we told my five-year-old son we were going on a hike and he literally LOST IT. I’m not talking about whining and complaining, I’m talking about blood curdling screams and now our neighbours probably think we abuse our children kind of screaming. Now, in some instances I would send him to his room for this sort of behaviour and tell him he can come out when he has calmed down. But since we were all trying to get ready, I just pretended nothing was happening and went about my work of getting everyone else ready. By the time it was his turn, he was already starting to calm down. I gave him a big hug and then began to dress him. Putting more energy into their good behaviour has been something I am constantly growing in, but I consistently see real results when I do this.
Words have power. What do you believe about your kids? What do they believe about themselves? What you believe about yourself is who you will eventually become. And the same goes for how you view your children. If you see them as annoying brats, that’s how you will treat them (whether consciously or not) and what they will begin to experience and believe about themselves. This is SO much easier said than done, but here is what I found helpful: sit down and write out statements about who your child is. Jon and I have been praying for our children since they were babies and asking God how he sees them. For example: “Noah is good. He is passionate and creative. Noah is smart and kind. He is a loyal friend.” We position ourselves to agree with the truth about who our children are, not what our emotions are telling us. We try to say these things over our kids and say it to them, even when it feels untrue, because words are powerful.
Team. You and your partner are a team. Your family is a team. Have team meetings. Here are some questions we ask our kids: “What kind of home do we want to have? Do we want to have a fun home? A safe home? What can we do to make our that way?” We take time at these family meetings to discuss underlying issues: “You keep getting angry when someone tells you something you already know. What’s going on?” We MUST get to the heart of issues if we are to see real change. We also take time to ask for forgiveness, and Jon and I lead by example. We are VERY aware that we are not perfect and need to ask the kids to forgive us for the times we have been rude and impatient or have lashed out. I would rather our kids get tired of our endless talking than of endless spankings.
If you don’t have a family team partner, then community is going to be an even more important aspect of your parenting life. (See my post on community for some starting points.)
Discipline. Every child is unique. What works with one child won’t necessarily work for all your children. Find what works and follow through. It doesn’t matter how good your intentions are, if you don’t follow through, kids will quickly catch on and your life will be much more difficult. We have “privileges” in our home, like video games, staying up to read, etc. We take their privileges away when they are misbehaving, and restore them at an appropriate time. Let me be clear: privileges are not needs. Needs are things like food, clothing, sleep, safety, etc.
Choices. We are trying to raise powerful people. Whenever appropriate, we give our children choices to empower them. This way, they learn how to make decisions and gain confidence in their ability to lead themselves and, in turn, lead others. For example, we try our best to address conflict by presenting choices. When one child is treating the other one poorly, we say something like, “You have two choices right now: you can go to your room until you are ready to be respectful and kind or you can apologize and start having fun now. What do you want to do?” They may not want to do either of these things, but at least they’ve still been given the chance to make a choice. If the uncooperative behaviour continues, then that’s a choice in itself that can lead to another set of choices: “Do you want to walk to your room or be carried?” Obviously the carrying option applies to younger children. If you end up needing to take a child to his or her room, you may find that by the time you get there, they’re ready to talk or hug and cry or connect in some way. A change of scenery often goes a long way on the path to peace. (And sometimes you will find yourself carrying a screaming child in the crook of your arm wondering if this choices thing even works, but we are in for long term results not the instant results, so in the long run it will make all the difference….I hope… :)
Breathe/Whisper. We all know how angry we can feel. sometimes things are quite explosive. It can be hard to not yell at your kids. Jon and I have found it most helpful to take a deep breath in those moments, get right down to your kids’ level, and start whispering instead. I’m not entirely sure why this seems to work, but it seems to take the wind out of you so that you can more calmly address your child. Most of the time, they sense you as a safer, more intimate place when you whisper, so they (eventually) begin to respond in kind.
Safety. What do your kids need to feel safe? We have found that our oldest does best when he has a plan or at least some idea of what his day will look like. So communicating our plans to him has been very helpful, indeed. We do not and cannot always know our plans, but we have found that simply telling him we do not have a plan is better than saying nothing. In contrast, our other two couldn’t care less and are ready to go with the flow. But my five-year-old needs more snuggle time to feel safe. Every child is different. It seems that safety is often created when we put effort into communicating to each child through their own love languages.
Affection/Affirmation. Maybe your child is having meltdown after meltdown because they need time. Time with you. Without distractions. We try our best to take our kids out on little dates individually so that they each get the quality time they need. We have honestly found that the more we do that the better behaved they are. Lean into love. Lean into affection and be interested in the things they care about.
There is no perfect parent or perfect parenting style/technique/advice because we are all unique. So get to know your kid. What makes them tick? Often the things they struggle with are the same things you do/did! What did you need to hear when you were their age? If you are looking for resources on parenting here are a few that we have found particularly helpful: Win Win Parenting by Seth Dal, Loving Our Kids On Purpose by Danny Silk, and my good friend Jonathan Puddle recently released an article on practical discipline tips for parents.
I hope that this was hopeful and inspiring.
Thank you for following along!