“You’re the meanest mommy in the whole world!” the seven year old screams at her mother, as she stomps down the hall to her room, punctuating the scene with a crashing door slam. There’s not much that’s good about that scene, except that it is well within the range of normal behavior. You may not like it, but it is what most kids do at some times.
Kids get angry at their parents for all kinds of reasons. Mainly they get angry when they are in some way thwarted—when they don’t get what they want. But it also happens when they have to do something they don’t want to do, when they are disappointed, when they are in the midst of lousy local conditions, and when they are just plain crabby. And the expression of that anger can look pretty nasty.
But do you really think your child hates you? Do you think he means it when he says he wishes he had a different father and that he wants to live at Jeremy’s house where he can use the computer whenever he wants? Well, truth be told, maybe he does, just for that split second. Anger will do that to a person, stir up some fighting words, some hurtful sentiments. But he doesn’t really mean it.
A child’s anger is not about you. It feels that way when a jet stream of vitriol intended just for you fills the hallway airspace. But it isn’t. So don’t take it personally. Absorbing your child’s anger and making it about you, will only exacerbate the issue. “Don’t you dare talk to me that way, young man.” Young child needs to be able to express himself and all his big feelings. Yes, he does need to learn about respect. Yes, he does need to know that words can hurt as much as fists. And he will learn both in time … but not in the heat of that moment.
Later, when the feeling has long since passed is when you do your revisit. “You were really angry when I wouldn’t let you use the computer. You said some really powerful stuff. I love you even when you are angry and say you hate me. And when I ask you to turn off the computer, I expect you to turn it off.” State it clearly and without feeling. Children need to know that their parents will not crumble when they use their angry words. You know they reserve they most powerful stuff for you, the person whose love they trust the most. Remember, it isn’t about you. When you turn it into a finger wagging lecture about respecting you, the lesson about turning off the computer is lost. Further, he will have one more reason to “hate” you. If his words don’t work and don’t have power, they will not be useful to him.
And you thought raising children would be easy!