Once our children get to a certain age they sometimes say hurtful things. They can make broad stroke statements when they are upset (or even when they are not) that can be like a bucket of cold water being thrown on us.
.’I love Daddy more than you’
‘I hate you’
‘You’re horrible to me’
‘You never play with me’
Of course, it is not always words that are used but through their body language they can speak loud and clear by maybe turning their backs on us or pushing us away.
Now in the moment any of these words or actions can be pretty tough to deal with, even more so if it is done in public. So here are my 6 tips to help you deal with the situation.
1. Understand their predicament
It is so easy to react at these times as if it was meant in the way it has been delivered but very often it is not. Children have strong emotions and limited power over their lives. Often the words they use are an expression of a feeling but not meant in the way they come across.
They are an attempt to express something they cannot explain. A child who turns its back on its mother after being left at preschool can’t turn around and say ‘I am angry with you because you abandoned me here and I am unsure of myself without you around’. Or a child who is refused a second ice cream half an hour before dinner can’t say ‘I resent how much control you have over me’.
2. Hear the meaning behind their words or actions
Children can’t fully describe how they feel and very often don’t know why they feel as they do. They may be complaining that the sausages on their plate don’t look normal but we are well aware that they are overtired. As parents we are used to reading behind the words. However, those really hurtful statements can catch us off guard.
I remember this feeing well when one day my son said to me ‘I love Daddy more than you’. I was taken aback. Me, the one who is always there and wipes away every tear and deals with every problem is second rate to Daddy? It stung.
But I took a second to assess the situation before I spoke. Was he trying to upset me? In this case I decided not, he said it so matter of factly. Then I thought about the feeling he might be trying to tell me about. He doesn’t see Daddy so much and he loves playing with him. Maybe he is saying that Daddy is more fun than me, or maybe he is saying that he misses him? A bit of both probably. So instead of reacting hurt I said to him ‘I am so glad you love your Daddy. He is lovely isn’t he and he loves you too.”
My sons statement was not a comparison of his love as the words would suggest but a feeling about his Daddy: a need to see him and have fun with him or maybe even a need to be reassured about Daddy’s love in his absence.
There are occasions, as children get more sophisticated, when they might say something on purpose to provoke a reaction from us. This is a time when it is even more important to consider the message behind the comment. It could be that they are feeling too restricted or that they are angry at us or someone else for something. It could be that they are hurt or unsure and don’t know what to do with it. The older the child gets the more possibilities there are to discuss with them what might be going on.When our children say hurtful things hear the meaning, forget the words Click To Tweet
When we can tap into the reasons behind their statements and feed that back to them it helps our children become more emotionally aware. And it also helps us because we begin to see that it is not just about us. It removes the hurt and replaces it with understanding, even if we disagree.
3. Ignore the all encompassing words that they use
Children often use words like…
Always, Never, No one and Everyone.
‘You always give me fish’
‘You never spend time with me’
‘No one plays with me’
‘Everyone laughs at me’
These words sound like a statement of fact but they actually are used by children to express a feeling. As an adult it can be hard to hear these words and not want to tackle the logic of them. Our logical minds want to argue the validity of the statement
‘I don’t always give you fish. You had chicken yesterday’
But for the child this completely misses the point they are trying to deliver which is probably something like,
‘You give me fish too often and I don’t like it and I am tired and my brother has upset me’.
4. Let them know you understand, even if you don’t agree
Empathising with our kids helps them feel heard.
‘I know that you are very cross with me because you really wanted another ice cream. You must have really liked it…It is tough to feel so disappointed about not having another one.’
This helps them tap into their own emotions behind the anger. Explaining their emotions to them doesn’t mean you have to do it their way.
5. Don’t think it is easy
It is not always easy to do. As parents we are under a lot of pressure that children are totally unaware of.
It can feel so unfair in that moment when we hear something hurtful from our child because we know that we are putting our heart and soul into raising them. We all slip up from time to time and react to the words and miss the meaning.
6. Be kind to yourself
It is good to consider what our children are trying to tell us. Sometimes what they say is quite perceptive and it can be hard to hear. Sometimes we need to think about why they are getting repeatedly upset and consider if there is anything we need to change or if we need to discuss something with them.
It is quite normal to have these things stay with us, to question ourselves. But it is also important to let it go at some point and be kind to ourselves. As parents we work really hard to do what is best. Recognising that in ourselves is very important.
What have your children done or said that has been hurtful? How did you cope with it at the time? Did it stay with you? I would love to hear. I reply to every comment.
So what is next?
If you liked this article then you may also like:
- 5 Tips On Dealing With Repeated Problems With Your Children
- Fantasies Of Motherhood
- When Does Motherhood Start? And Why It Is Important
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