Welcome to the club. You’re human. It’s hard to like anyone 100% of the time, even people we love.
“But doesn’t that make me a ‘bad’ parent?“
No. It makes you a honest parent. A human parent.
Have you ever wondered to yourself, while struggling with your child, “What’s wrong with my child?!?” Or as I like to think about it, “Why do I have to wait 25 years for my child’s brain to be fully developed?!?” That’s right, 25 years! Or maybe you and your child’s personalities clash (could it be she’s just like you?). Or maybe your child has some challenges that are quite overwhelming?
1. Acknowledge and let go of the guilt
We live in a society that is constantly suggesting, if not outright telling, parents that they must embrace and adore every moment of childhood. It’s normal to not like your children some of the time. It’s also normal to feel guilty about it (although not typically helpful). In fact, guilt is typically only helpful if it motivates you to change your circumstances or behaviors in some way.
2. Remember kids don’t always like their parents and that doesn’t make them “bad” kids
“But I’m the parent. I’m supposed to like them!” Being the parent just means you have to keep your own “stuff” in check while your kids are still learning how to keep their “stuff” in check. What kinds of “stuff” are we talking about? Your emotions, your impulses, your need to be liked, listened to, and appreciated in the moment. The egocentricity and lack of brain development of children makes it difficult for them to help you deal with your “stuff”. Plus, it’s not their job.
3. Reflect on if your child is triggering something from your past
Is your child’s neediness triggering feelings related to having to care for your troubled parent? Did your family avoid conflict at all costs, making it difficult for you to tolerate your preschooler’s tantrums? Is your teenager’s lying and sneaky behavior triggering feelings of your ex who betrayed you? Is it possible that the dislike you feel for your child is really all mixed up with other feelings that you haven’t dealt with yet? When that uncomfortable feeling washes over you, stick with it, dig into it, and try to see what it connects to in your past.
4. Recognize that feelings are different from behaviors
Sometimes we all have to act differently from how we feel In the moment. Tap into your love for your child and the values that guide your parenting. Set aside the dislike you might feel and parent for the outcome you want to see 1, 2 or 5 years from now. If your child talks back to you, start molding their behavior now to be the respectful relationship you want to have with them in the future. This may mean speaking respectfully (but firmly) to your child in the moment, even though you may feel like exploding.
5. Consider the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Are you not liking your child because it’s hard to accept certain qualities about them? Three year olds tend to resist the rules. Teenagers, exploring their new found cognitive reasoning, tend to test their debating skills on you. Children with ADHD can be disorganized, forgetful and overly active. Or maybe it’s time to focus the frustration into change. Ask yourself, “what behaviors do me and my child need to change to grow closer together.”
6. Falling in like with your child should be a deliberate thing
That’s right I said falling in like. And I said deliberate. I know some kids are just so likable that you just look at them and you melt. Others.. not so much. This just means you have to work harder to create, sustain, and embrace the moments where you fall in like with your child. Perhaps it’s playing tag with your hyperactive kid. Maybe it’s having parent-child one-on-one dates to peacefully enjoy those always fighting siblings. When your child finally clears the table without being asked, instead of thinking why doesn’t my kid do this all the time, savor the moment. Enjoy that little bit of proof that those values you are trying to teach are sinking in.
It’s almost impossible to like the people we love 100% of the time. Remember these steps to help you through the hard times. Let go of the guilt. Keep your “stuff” in check. Explore where your “stuff” is coming from. Learn to accept your child while still encouraging growth. Finally, embrace those moments you adore them.
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