By Bill Corbett, author of Love, Limits & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids, and member of the API Resource Advisory Committee, www.cooperativekids.com.
We’re all trying to get more done in less time and with less money. When it comes to our kids, we do our best to spare no expense to give them the world. Then, without warning, they hurt us with words because they don’t like a limitation or boundary we’ve set or the word “NO.” Here are six things to do the next time your child screams, “I hate you!”
1. Remain calm. In order to do the next five things, you’ve got to keep your emotions from getting the best of you. It’s also an opportunity to model self-control for your child.
2. Acknowledge that the words stung. It’s hard to think of anything more hurtful that our children can say to us than hearing them say these words. Accept the hurt, but don’t let it determine your behavior at that moment.
3. Avoid the urge to hurt back. It is a normal human reaction to become defensive when someone attacks or hurts us. Remember that it’s your child in front of you at the moment, and know that he doesn’t mean what he has just said.
4. Say to the child, “You look like you’re mad at me.” A child either loves or hates us, there is nothing in between for her. Our children do not know hate as we do. Help them put into appropriate words what they are feeling at the moment.
5. Remain silent, and let them express their anger without retribution or defensiveness. Here’s one of those opportunities I’m always talking about—talking less. If a child is allowed to express his anger, it is emotion released and not forced back inside to build up and explode sometime later.
6. Examine what it was that triggered your child to get angry to begin with, and take responsibility for your part. Children need plenty of advance notice to help them transition from one activity to another, and visual cues (something they can watch for) work best. Also, giving in to a child’s demands just to get her to calm down only teaches her to repeat the demanding behavior whenever she wants something.
One more thing—our parents would not have tolerated hearing us say those words when we were kids. That was a different world and a different time. Don’t let your parents’ voices in your head control your own parenting in today’s modern world. Ignore their voices, and do what you know is right.