Have you ever felt momentarily overwhelmed, annoyed, or angry and raised your voice at your child?
If the answer is no, you are some kind of web-crawling bot, not a real-live human parent, and therefore you do not have to read any further.
For the rest of us: Every relationship, including parent-child relationships, has its ups and downs, ins and outs, and even ruptures and repairs.
One of the lessons every mom (and dad) has to learn is that it’s okay if there are occasionally times you can’t give your child what you think is best for him. Learning to accept that you are human and that you can’t give 100 percent 100 percent of the time will, in the long run, strengthen your parent-child bond.
My Patience Predicament
Last week I got a bit angry at one of my children. He hadn’t listened to my instructions (a perennial problem for most parents and kids), despite the fact that I repeated them quite a few times. I felt that he was focusing on his own thoughts rather than what I was saying—I could sense the “wheels of his brain” turning while he listened to me with half an ear.
I became frustrated and tense, my sentences became terse and devolved to the point where what I said became condescending. Of course, after this I felt really bad. Better managing my patience levels (whether they involve my children or anyone else) is something I’ve been working on. So, I put into place my 3-point action plan:
I took a few breaths and gave myself some space
I had a warm drink
I calmed myself down and reminded myself that it’s okay to not be perfect
2. Thinking About the Love
I connected to the love I feel for this child by thinking about how precious he is and reminding myself of all the good in him
3. Outreach and Connection
Later, at bedtime, I lay down next to him, which us generally part of our bedtime ritual. It’s a time when we schmooze and talk over the day.
I apologized for reacting the way I did. I also asked him if he had any thoughts on how he could pay more attention to what I have to say in the future.
My son came up with a couple of neat ideas. He said:
Write me a list, Ma. This way I see it in front of me.
(Of course! I know how important a visual cue can be, but sometimes, in the heat of the moment…)
Just give me one thing to do at a time. Otherwise I can’t pay attention.
(Of course! Don’t overload my child’s brain.)
Then it was my turn.
My idea was to try and get into his head a bit, to remember to talk to him about what he was thinking about. I could also show him that I was really paying full attention by being present, and letting it show in my eyes and face. He liked that one.
Repair Your Relationship With Your Child
You too can repair your relationship with your child, but try and do it when you feel calmer. You may need to take the time for self-care first, whether that means five minutes of deep breaths or a 30 minute bubble bath.
Then talk calmly to your child when you’re both feeling more relaxed. I believe in apologizing to your child when you’ve erred (which is not necessarily when they think you’ve erred, its’ okay to be judicious.) Showing your child that adults make mistakes and then are able to take responsibility for them is a great way to model responsible adult behavior.
Plus, honoring your child’s feelings shows them, perhaps more than anything else, that you value that they are a unique individual, worthy of love and respect.
You can snuggle up to them, go for a walk or an ice-cream, just the two of you, as long as it’s something that they particularly find enjoyable and/or relaxing. Show them your love in the way they understand it best—through hugs, conversation, and “mom and me time”.
What Do I Do If I’ve Had A Lot Of “Breaks” Without Repair?
Start slow. Tell your child, in an age-appropriate way, that you’ve been thinking a lot about improving your relationship and ask for his input. It might take several conversations until you reach a point that moving forward is possible.
The key is remembering that if you want to always be right, you’ll never be able to truly connect with your child. Giving up some control will go a long way to repairing a fragile relationship.
If there is a history of emotionally painful episodes, you may want to consider counseling.
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