I don’t know about you but my children are very strong willed and emotional. Arguments often break out and tempers flare. Parenting provides a unique opportunity to learn things not only about your children but also about yourself. My kids have big emotions. We have a gamete of reactions including crying, screaming, yelling, and stomping. One thing that I didn’t expect was that my children’s emotions would be so triggering for my own emotions.
Perhaps that’s why the saying, “Children should be seen but not heard” became so popular. When another human starts expressing their emotions, we are often uncomfortable. We say things like, “Don’t cry!” or “It’ll be ok!” We want to fix, correct, or dismiss the situation so we feel more at ease. However, I believe that this can lead to devastating consequences for children and also for the adults that they become later in life. Parents are supposed to train and guide children so they can become independent, well-rounded adults. I believe if parenting is done well, the child will leave home having the tools they need to care for themselves financially, emotionally, physically, and socially. This is no small task and obviously, there is a critical transition period that happens in young adulthood. However, teaching children how to be emotionally healthy starts when they are young. You can only lead someone as far as you’ve gone yourself so the first thing I had to do as a young, new mom was learn how to be emotionally healthy myself. That starts with recognizing that we all could use some help in this department. Our schools are not equipped to teach children how to be emotionally healthy. These emotional coping skills are learned early in a child’s development. I think teaching kids how to be emotionally healthy and resilient starts are home. Parents are the first teachers that children look to for guidance in this big and scary world. We will often follow the patterns and coping skills that were modelled for us by our parents. Example: My dad was passive aggressive and so I also tend to cope with my emotions by being passive aggressive. Now I’m not using this as a pass to say we are doomed to continue the patterns our parents passed down to us. Instead, I’ve found that it’s easier to identify other’s struggles instead of our own. Looking at the struggles our parents had can provide an excellent starting point to help us evaluate our own shortcomings.
Generally, the most powerful emotions have an underlying motivation driving them. I have found that most of the explosive emotions can be traced back to underlying fear or a lack of control. When my children are screaming or yelling, I find that I often want to respond out of anger. Going to counseling helped me recognize that the reason I often feel this overwhelming emotion is because when they are throwing a fit, I feel out of control. The lack of control stirs up in me strong angry feelings, as I now have to wrestle with the fact that there is another human on this planet that I cannot control. If we walk around anxious all the time, our children will start to recognize that and start to wonder, “If mom or dad are worried about the world, shouldn’t I be worried?” Parents provide a framework for how children look at the world. So what have my children taught me about parenting powerful emotions?
First work on parenting your own emotions so you will be equipped to handle your children’s emotions.
I personally worked on this with the help of a counselor. I recommend you do the same. However, here are a few things I learned along the way that were extremely helpful for me!
- Emotions are amoral meaning they are neither good nor bad.
- However, emotions can be used as an excuse to justify our actions for good or for evil so take the appropriate precautions.
- Emotions need to be acknowledged and felt. Dismissing or minimizing one’s emotions just leads to resentment and frustration later.
- Emotions need to be managed. Anger doesn’t give us permission to lash out and hurt another person.
- We must learn the delicate balance between feeling and acknowledging our emotions but also managing them.
Example: I want to be a good parent so even though my kids frustrate me at times, it is my responsibility to learn how to not only manage that frustration but also deal with my children patiently and rationally. I can feel and acknowledge the frustration, but I don’t get to lash out at my kids because of that frustration. Thanks for reading friends! I’d love to hear what parenting tips you have learned that help you parent powerful children.