When Parents’ Emotions Take Over
We all say or do things we wish we could take back. We’ve yelled, lectured, shamed, and bribed our kids to behave. We aren’t proud of these moments, but we’ll all been there.
There isn’t a perfect or right parent, but there can be a more calm parent. If we are feeling desperate to get our kids to obey, we are probably feeling responsible for their behavior. Or maybe we want our kids to help keep us calm and feeling good. When our emotions direct our parenting, we repeat power struggles that leave everyone exhausted and frustrated.
How else do we parent if our feelings are less in charge? We can let our calm thinking and goals direct our parenting actions. By slowing down our reactions, we can identify our thoughts and goals behind parenting our child.
Emotions Can Trip Up Parents and Kids
First, emotions aren’t bad. Emotions can be very motivating or they can trip us. When we trip, we get in the way of our children learning from their own lessons and mistakes.
“When we need our kids to accept us or validate us by doing whatever we want them to , we make them the caretakers or our emotional remote controls.” ~ Hal Runkel, Family Therapist & Author of Screamfree Parenting
Think about the last time you “lost it” with your child. Maybe you said something you regretted or tried something that flopped. Were any of these feelings driving your parenting actions?
- Overwhelmed – want kids to hurry or be easy on you because of your own fatigue and/or increased work load
- Worry – fret about whether kids will be liked, turn into a criminal, be chronically depressed, etc
- Unsure – doubt self as parent so try everything without sticking to anything
- Anger – feel unappreciated and/or like no one respects you
- Guilt – feel bad about focusing on self-care or other interests so give kids what they want
Let Parenting Goals Guide You
You can learn to slow down your reactions with your kids. By redirecting your emotions, you can think more clearly. Let your parenting goals be your guide instead of your emotions.
“To be truly in charge means having the power to create lasting and continued growth, not just exerting power or demanding obedience.” ~Hal Runkel
What is your goal when you interact and/or discipline your child?
Emotionally Charged Goals:
- To win the argument
- To be right
- To be respected
Or, Calm Thoughtful Goals:
- To not take sides
- To not have all the answers to their problems
- To stay out of their intensity (arguing, whining, complaining, etc.)
Your parenting goals will direct your behavior. Slow down long enough to ask yourself what your goal is when emotions start to heat up.
For example, if my lovely daughter starts to whine, beg, and plead, I have a few choices. I can preach that she’s being a baby and needs to grow up. I can get in a power struggle about how she needs to take her whining to her room, and then realize I can’t get her to her room anymore.
Or, I can let her own her feelings, while recognizing I’m not going to join them. I recognize that she wants to be grumpy without trying to tell her what to do about it. Instead I tell her about me – I am happy to talk more when she’s done with her grumpy mood.
Calm Parenting Thoughts
I am not a perfect parent but have learned that I can calm myself down. I don’t have to engage every feeling my kids have. What helps me stay calm yet connected when my kids have a meltdown? My thinking helps me calm down:
- Seeing Kids’ Feelings as Separate – Not viewing my kids feelings as a reflection of how they feel about me.
- Not Feeling Responsible for Their Feelings – Instead know that I am responsible for how I interact with them
Both ways of thinking can liberate a parent and child. While your child may not initially like it when you are calmer, they will grow into it. When you are calmer, your child has an opportunity to stew in their own juices and find their way to calm too. (My daughter can calm herself down when she’s not tripping over me!)
“Be the first one to see your children as individuals, with their own lives, decisions, and futures.” ~ Hal Runkel
What goals guide you to become a more calm and confident parent?
Marci Payne offers individual, marriage and family counseling in Independence MO (near Kansas City MO). Schedule a free 15 minute phone consult to determine if she is the best counselor for you and/or your family.
Photo Credit: “Parent and Child” by Skyseeker