You’re in a rush, your list of jobs to do is as long as your arm, you’re tired, dinner isn’t prepared and you’ve got another two appointments to fit into your day. Just another day as a parent.
But the minute you try and get your kids to help and alleviate your responsibilities in the slightest possible way – you get the eye roll, the ‘Do I have to?’, the grunts, groans and excuses.
It can be infuriating to accept this kind of response from your child! When I recently asked a group of parents what their biggest challenges were, back chatting, eye rolling and general anti-social behaviour was one of the most common complaints.
While these things are aggravating, they are secondary behaviours. Sometimes we get so caught up in these behaviours we can overlook what’s causing them. Why are they so angry right now? Why are they acting so defensive?
Often children lash out when they are upset and don’t know how to handle it. When a child is having a strong negative emotion, it can influence the way they relate to people around them. To you they may be over-reacting to a fight with their friend, but to them it’s the end of the world.
Attitudes and inappropriate responses are a way of communicating ‘I want to be seen, or I want to be heard. Acknowledge me!’
As hard as it may be, acknowledging their feelings instead of addressing the inappropriate response will calm your child down and help them realise you are there for them. For example “I can see you’re really upset right now, I’ll check back with you later” allows them to deal with their emotion and reconnect with the family when they’re ready. Whereas responses like “Don’t you roll your eyes at me! I’m sick of you being so rude!” adds fuel to the fire, puts distance between you and your child and creates negative thoughts like ‘You don’t understand me! You don’t know what I’m going through!’
We want our children to trust us and talk to us – not lock us out because they think we don’t understand.
So, do we let them get away with the rude responses? No. Not if it really bothers you.
When everyone is calm again, THEN is the time to be clear about expectations regarding manners and appropriate responses to your words. One of my favourite sayings is ‘there’s no point in giving swimming lessons while a person is drowning’…. Accordingly, there is no point addressing secondary behaviours when a child is hurting about something much more important to them. Your words will be lost and tempers will continue to soar.
With a clear head, everyone can make rational decisions. Be proactive and make a plan with your child about appropriate ways to handle being upset, and how you can respectfully let your family know that you need some space right now. You can also let them know how you feel when they respond that way, such as “It really upset me when you said ‘whatever’ to me last night. I recognise you were upset, but I expect you to control those responses in future.”
Perhaps this is not what you want to hear… I wish there were some way to eradicate bad attitudes and rude responses! But if we can control OUR responses and allow their feelings to be heard, it’s better than the alternative – shutting down their feelings and adding to their negative emotions with a personal attack of their character.
We all know it’s hard to be cool, calm and collected when we are upset.
That goes for kids too.